Over her impressive tenure in the supermodel space, Alessandra Ambrosio has been photographed by every top photographer in the fashion industry, but there's one pro that has forged a bond so special, their work warrants its very own coffee table book.
Alessandra by Stewart Shining is filled with never-before-seen images of the model shot by Stewart Shining. The duo teamed up to create new editorial-like images specifically for the book (which includes intimate nude photographs) and a slew of throwbacks from some of their earliest work together (including shots in "PINK"-adorned sweatpants), which all started during one of Ambrosio's very first shoots in New York City.
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The two met in the late '90s when a 17-year-old Ambrosio came to N.Y.C. from her native Brazil (and barely spoke English at the time). After taking some Polaroids together in his studio, he booked the teen for a Wallpaper Magazine cover where she had to pose topless (while appearing covered up) with two male models.
"He was so nice and sweet," Ambrosio tells PEOPLE of Shining. "I trusted him. He's super talented and professional, so we bonded from day one."
That gave way to Ambrosio and Shining booking Victoria's Secret campaigns together and working the brand's new PINK sector. "They wanted me and him to launch the PINK brand for Victoria's Secret. So we did endless shoots and traveled everywhere," she shares.
More than 20 years later, the two are still the best of friends. "We go for hikes here in L.A. and spend a lot of time together," she says. When Ambrosio began thinking about doing a book of photographs from her career, Shining thought they had enough unpublished pictures to do a book on their work together.
"First I was hesitating a little bit. I was like, 'Do we really have enough pictures or is it going to be a 20 page book?' Ambrosio wondered. "We started going through some stuff and then we decided to do a few more photo shoots, just for the book. We ended up with a 200-page book of images that we shot together."
Ambrosio describes the final result as "an art book" because "you can see more intimate moments of my life, my career. It was something very special to be able to do."
They went to the Maldives and Rio, staged shoots in deserts and beaches, and at times, Ambrosio bared it all for the camera.
"Even if I have been a model for a long time, there aren't that many times that I've posed nude," she says. "But with him I decided, 'No, let's do it. Especially for the book.' Because I just feel comfortable."
She says the main reason she feels so at ease is because she "trusts him."
"I know that the picture's not going to be vulgar," she shares of posing nude. "I know it's going to be more like a piece of art than just a sexy picture. We have very similar vision on what we want from our work. So I can be 100% myself when he has the camera in front of him. We can just be super natural and free in a way."
Someone else who's become a comfortable asset to have on set is Ambrosio's boyfriend, model Richard Lee, who she says "directs very well" on shoots.
"If he is not working and I'm doing a photo shoot somewhere that he can come we'll do a few pictures together sometimes," she says. "Or he will kind of help me — I was doing some pictures here at the house for Halloween. He helps direct very well."
Alessandra by Stewart Shining is available now for $95 at alessandrabook.com.
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