A Montreal photographer’s encounter with Luka Rocco Magnotta

In this Maclean’s exclusive, Paul Mason recalls his shoot with a man he knew as ‘Rocco’

Paul Mason knew the man simply as Rocco. Seeking to beef up his photographic portfolio, the 48-year-old Montrealer had placed an ad on Craigslist in April 2011, seeking models who would work gratis in exchange for free portraits. Soon, Rocco got in touch. Mason agreed to meet the man, who he understood to be a gay model, at Rocco’s apartment in the gentrifying southwest Montreal neighbourhood of Pointe-Saint-Charles. And so it was that around lunchtime on Saturday, May 1 of last year, Mason arrived at Rocco’s apartment, near the Charlevoix metro. Rocco “came out dressed in sweatpants, a tank-top hoodie, and a little bit of facial makeup on his cheeks,” recalls Mason. “The cheek thing was a little much. I said to myself, ‘Ugh, that’s going to be a little creamy on camera—but what the hell.’ I looked at the guy: a very chiselled face, not ugly, by any means. Quite dynamic looking.”

The foundation on his cheeks wasn’t his only idiosyncrasy. “He was speaking in this Russian, sort-of-little-bit-of-an-Eastern-European accent,” Mason says, imitating the Slavic cadence. “He maintained it all the way through. I had no reason to suspect it wasn’t real, but it did cross my mind: is this a real accent? It was just a little bit odd. I said, ‘Where are you from?’ and he says, ‘Half-Italian, half-Russian.’ I had no reason to suspect he was putting on a persona.” Over the ensuing hours Mason took dozens of outdoor shots of Rocco against an urban backdrop of brickwork and graffiti. “I said, ‘Okay, we’re going to do the first shot,’ and he said, ‘I’m ready,’ and I pointed the camera and he went boom: his face went 45 degrees to the side—like a robot, almost—and he froze: no smile, no nothing. Stone-faced. And I said in my head, This guy’s intense. These pictures are going to turn out nice. As freaky as he looks, they’re going to have some punch.’

Rocco mentioned modelling work he’d done in Europe and New York and the fact he had a child. His speaking voice was dry and monotone. When Mason felt he’d run out of things to shoot in the area, Rocco helped him carry his lighting equipment up the stairs to his apartment for an indoor shoot. “It was a mess,” Mason remembers of the place. “Sloppy. One room, a kitchenette, a bed, unmade, with a red bedspread.” A green couch in the room looked more promising. “I said, ‘This could be like a nice studio boudoir-type shot.’ ” They closed the shutters and set up his flash heads. “He said, ‘Do you want me on the bed?’ I said, ‘Yeah, sure, let’s start on the bed and we’ll do some after on the sofa.’ He got on the bed and did very laid-back, semi-sensual poses. Nothing erotic—there was no nudity or anything like that—and I shot away. And he maintained this cold face with no smile. There’s only one picture in the whole 90 pictures I took with an inkling of a grin on his face.

“Then he put on the black fake leather jacket and he looked very James Dean,” Mason says. “I even thought that before I knew he had a fetish for him.” Mason was happy with the day’s work, and spent weeks poring over the shots on his computer, whittling them down. He arranged to meet Rocco again to hand over some portraits; Rocco greeted him with that same Eastern European accent, and the two men shook hands. It was the last time Mason would see him until last Thursday. That day, at work, a colleague made a black joke about finding body parts in the trash. Mason had not yet heard of the grisly crimes that for the past week have captivated the world. “Ten minutes later my wife phones me. ‘Paul,’ she says: ‘It’s him! The guy you photographed last year. It’s him, I’m sure of it.’ ”

The New Face of Evil: This Maclean’s report by Nicholas Kohler and Martin Patriquin continues in the current issue of Maclean’s, which is now on newsstands.

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A Montreal photographer’s encounter with Luka Rocco Magnotta

  1. And now Mason has sold a cover shot. Well done, Mason.

  2. Craigslist, huh. And yet, according to the Montreal police, “there is no indication that Magnotta used Craigslist”.
    Speaking of Craigslist, the following creepy ad was posted on the morning of May 24th, under “men seeking men”:
    “I am looking for a sexy guy who is interested in becoming an actor in a personal movie I am making…”

  3. Maclean’s grants Luka’s wish to be a glamorous cover star and a legend, while the victim remains body parts in headlines and in readers’ mind. It is said Luka was “smiling all the way to his German cell with his sunglasses on”. The victim’s mother, at the same time, could barely walk. It is also said Luka “had a very sound sleep in jail”, while the victim’s mother will never have a single night’s good sleep in her remaining years. Luka’s crime, in a way, was commissioned by this very culture who is now pretending to treat it as mere anomaly.

    Lin, your mother will take you back home. You will find peace, decency and dignity there.

  4. ITS DISGUSTING how the Media can glorify such a dark and evil person to the public.
    I guess people love to see this kind of thing; It makes their life interesting.

  5. Considering the huge amount of information already online, and the flood gates opened since this horrible crime occurred, is it just me or is this article so biased it reeks of foul as well?

    Mr Mason is a photographer posting on Craigslist (no less) yet seems to go “ugh” because one of his contacts appears to wear foundation. Bit of advice if you’re a photographer: carry some powder with you — it helps having the model’s face less shiny (from makeup or naturally oily skin).

    “He was speaking in this Russian, sort-of-little-bit-of-an-Eastern-European accent […] is this a real accent? It was just a little bit odd”.

    Really? Perhaps advertise ‘for natives only’ in your ads? This is not even xenophobic, it just screams silliness.

    “I pointed the camera and he went boom: his face went 45 degrees to the side — like a robot, almost — and he froze: no smile, no nothing”.

    Have you ever worked with models before mister Mason? That’s what they do. Actors do the same. Camera on? Boom! They’re on. The Face. The Pose. Think Madonna’s “Vogue”.

    Mentioning it that way here is biased. Journalistic transcription? I do not know. However, the line “As freaky as he looks, they’re going to have some punch” is just hilarious.

    What exactly is freaky about a model behaving as a model? Out of a Craigslist add, perhaps mister Mason should have thought: “Cool! The kid seems a bit professional”.

    How exactly do you go from “very chiseled face” and “quite dynamic looking” to “As freaky as he looks”? That would be interesting to know the leap in thinking here — providing that is not in any way based upon the news.

    About the mess in the apartment: what exactly is so jaw dropping in a messy apartment of a possible single, young dude?

    As for the “There’s only one picture in the whole 90 pictures I took with inkling of a grin on his face”: is that supposed to mean that, consequently to new report of a gruesome crime committed, obviously, psychopath do NOT smile. Ever? Then retrospectively it gives you the chills? Come on. Who’s the attention w now?

    “he looked very James Dean” – “I even thought that before I knew he had a fetish for him”.

    Right… “Fetish”? Really? How can a photographer be “happy with the day’s work” when the model seems to be idiosyncratic, “freaky” and “stone-faced”?

    What this article is pointing at is just some photographer (who happened to take pictures of the alleged murderer Luka Magnotta) who got in touch with the press, pass on some pictures for a price tag and possibly get some contacts out of it, or more passing on pictures.

    The cover to Maclean’s is very nice though. Perfect seller. Baby faced dude + black and white + the new face of evil tag = good deal.

    This, is just sensationalism and doesn’t add anything to this otherwise very strange puzzle.

    • McLean’s: The new face of trash journalism.

      • Nothing new. They’ve been shovelling the trash for quite awhile now. This time, however, I think they’ve reached a new low.

  6. This is pretty disgusting of Maclean’s to showcase this punk’s dream of becoming any magazine’s coverboy. Really shameful to the family of the victim and to the Canadian public.

  7. I couldn’t agree with DarnMC more. McLean’s is giving this (alleged) psychopath exactly what he wants. F_ck you, McLeans! You’re everything I hate about modern media. No decency and dignity here, indeed.

    • there is no need to swear, actually it is very disturbing to see that under a seemingly normal looking face can hide such a terrible individual, to prove that you cannot judge a book by it’s cover, nor a criminal hiding under the boy’s next door aparently normal face

      • Respectfully, I’ll decide when I need to swear, and McLean’s put me over-the-edge with this pretty-boy photo pictorial of this alleged monster. I’m sorry, but if it’s a revelation for you to discover that terrible individuals can be good-looking boys-next-door-types, you’ve been naive. It also has NOTHING to do with my disgust in McLeans, and modern media in general. They need to report the news, not create it. Especially in a sickenly fashion such as this.

        • It makes me laugh when I keep hearing “The media is giving him all the fame he wants!!” actually, do you think he’s sitting there reading all the newspapers, magazines, etc? He’s not. The guards aren’t handing them to him to pour over. So, in fact, the media isn’t “giving him all the fame he wants”- they’re giving YOU everything YOU want. You’re here reading about it, aren’t you? Leave the media alone. Because they plastered his face everywhere, is the reason why this monster is caught and behind bars.

          • Keep laughing, Kelly (or Guest). Fools usually do. Magnotta, among other despicable things, is a narcissist who needs to see his face in the press, and has illusions of himself as a model and actor. It turned out to be his undoing, as he was caught in an internet cafe doing just that. Yes, getting his face “out there” so people could recognise him was a good thing. What I object to here is a 14-photo fashion pictorial that glamourises his (supposed) good looks. Especially from a rag like McLean’s that tries to pass itself off as ‘important’, and ‘Canada’s newsmagazine’. Clearly, you didn’t “get it”. Not my concern.

          • If you call Maclean’s a rag, why are you on their website? Calling someone a “fool” for having an opinion makes me laugh even more. Poor, unfortunate, angry you. Enjoy your day.

          • You’re right. I shouldn’t have called you a fool. For all I know, you may be a giggling 10 year old girl with a simplistic view of Magnotta’s psyche and the media’s role in feeding it (and others like him). I shouldn’t have commented on your lack of understanding of a narcissistic criminal mind, or even allege that you are someone with a moral compass that needs to be reset if you weren’t at least a little disturbed by this piece. Personally, I am so repulsed that I feel the need to speak out. Unfortunately, you chose to get in my line of sight. Good luck with that. PS: Thank you. I plan to have an excellent day.

          • If you call Maclean’s a rag, why are you on their website? Calling someone a “fool” for having an opinion makes me laugh even more. Poor, unfortunate, angry you. Enjoy your day.

    • Yup. “Muck”-lean’s sucks and has for years, years…

  8. Magnotta a fine product from Scarborough Ontario another great star from that province after a real bunch of shitty people like Paul Bernardo….Carla Homolka and Russel Williams…I thought that the Maple Leafs were the worst Ontario had to offer!!

  9. I am appauled to see this murderers face grace the cover of your magazine. It’s horrifying to look at him. Our culture is obsessed with fame as being some kind of virtue. Children are taught though the media that being beautiful is something to aspire to. And to relate this “person’s” looks to the acts of insane torture that he commited is sending very dangerous messages to the very vulnerable people in our society
    It’s frightening to think that people will copy him and try to out do him for the sake of becoming famous .
    He is getting exactly what he wants here .Fame. Why are the victim’s pictures not on the covers of magazines? Shame on you Macleans, Shame. Did you make alot of money from it?

  10. Congratulations on giving it the attention and fame it craved, just so you could profit.

  11. If this guy wanted attention seems he got it. You have given him the cover…I’m sure now he feels it was worth it. Not a good message to send.

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