George Burns on the Oprah set.
It's 7 a.m. on a March morning in Chicago, and George Burns is aiming his camera at a velvet curtain. Behind it is Jill Van Lokeren, a senior producer of The Oprah Winfrey Show and a model for today's shoot. Soon she'll emerge for the first time since being made over for this month's issue.
See how we transformed Van Lokeren and six other Harpo staffers as they wrap up the show's final season
These kinds of big moments are all in a day's work for Burns. Since 1993 he's been Harpo's official photographer, shooting everything from show tapings to Oprah's private parties. "I've gone all around the country and the world," he says. During Oprah's Texas beef trial, he holed up in an Amarillo hotel for six weeks before snapping his favorite photo, which shows Oprah beneath a banner that reads FREE SPEECH ROCKS!
Over the years, Burns has developed a special bond with Oprah. "She can say it all with one look—whether it's "Make sure you get this" or "Don't take any photos right now." Does he ever marvel at the awesome job he has? "All the time," he says. "When I shoot Oprah, I feel as if I'm capturing history. Then again, she's just like anyone else. Go to her house and she'll make you a sandwich."
Hang out with Oprah as often as Burns does, and people start to notice. Recently, a woman approached him after church. "She said, 'You're that nice boy who follows Oprah around!' I laughed and said, 'Yes ma'am, I am.' And I hope to be for as long as possible."
Check out the images he captured during this month's fashion shoot