07/01/1985 at 01:00 AM EDT
"My first picture for PEOPLE appeared in the March 31, 1975 issue," says Raeanne Rubenstein without a moment's hesitation. "It was a story about Loretta Lynn." In the decade since, Rubenstein has contributed so many photographs to these pages that she no longer keeps score. "PEOPLE and I were sort of made for each other," she says. "The kind of pictures this magazine likes—whimsical, original, offbeat, revealing, personal—is exactly the kind of photography I love to do."
As a free-lancer in heavy demand, Raeanne is both energetic and versatile. She will travel to any location to get the right shot; she also enjoys the challenge of "creating an entire fantasy environment in my studio." Earlier this year she conjured up the spooky skull-and-goblins scene accompanying our story on horror authors Stephen King and Peter Straub. "I love to build sets," she explains, and no one knows that better than her assistants. For the indoor beach set on page 72, two helpers lugged 2,000 pounds of sand up the stairs to her Manhattan loft studio.
The Staten Island-born Rubenstein was an English major at the University of Pennsylvania and briefly considered writing for a living. Instead she chose to build on her photographic hobby, though that meant a couple of years of apprenticeship with fashion photographers in London and New York at the then customary starvation wage of $25 a week. Still, says Raeanne (who is married to Richard Burns, an interior designer), "I was lucky to be interested in something I could grow with as a career."
Among her own favorite pictures was a pants-down portrait two years ago of Dustin Hoffman. "Dustin, who had just completed Tootsie, was making a spontaneous statement about sexism," recalls Raeanne, "and that's what made the shot fun and not lewd, charming and not sensational." That photo and her striking 1984 shot of an exotically sinuous Cyndi Lauper are part of PEOPLE'S current exhibit at New York's Nikon House.
"Those pictures happened because the subjects gave as much of themselves as they possibly could to create a photograph that goes beyond the ordinary," Raeanne says. "And I think the people who entrusted me with those moments have not regretted it. It's an opportunity for them to be seen by the world as the unique, special people that they are."