In continuation of my previous articles on portrait photography, let me go further in the subject. This time with a different kind of portraiture, the professional actor or model.
Photographing the woman who constantly says, "I never look good in pictures" and then you make her look good may seem an easy task. After all, she was convinced it could never be done.
Now, actors are different in that they already make a living from their look, and any new photo should forward that career.
People who don't normal pose in front of a camera, like the CEO of a company, are interesting because you got to have them relax and be them self. You actually do want to capture their soul, and if you can get them in that space where they are just there in front of the camera, you can get that moment where they just rest in them self.
People are usually quite beautiful when being them self. So it's more a people management thing than a photographic thing to it.
Now, some professional models are so used to posing that they will easily take over the photo shoot by posing in ways that can be very convincing or very automatic. They will recognize the click of the camera, change pose slightly, then change again and give you their "looks" in random order. And that might all be dandy if you are shooting 150 dresses and you just want to show the dresses. But when you do personal work for models, the challenge is to turn that posing off and get to the real person. You may want to hit them with something hard, but it won't work. A better way is to shoot them in ways they never tried before.
Now, a completely different category of portraits is professional actors. First off, they have a look they are very aware of, and contrary to when they work in front of a camera on a movie set, when you do their photos, you sort of work for them. Except that as a photographer, you can't work for the model. There can only be one director at set, and it must be the one behind the camera.
American actor Terence Hines on Melrose Avenue in Los Angeles, with Leica M9 and Leica 50mm Noctilux-M f/1.0 at f/1.0 in sunshine with 3-stop ND filter.
But your job as "director" is to make the person look true to the character that works for him or her. And then it becomes very intersting because unlike any other portrait photography, they can actually act. They are aware, they can keep an expression for long time, and they can even repeat the same stature, pose or emotion many times over.
You can ask them to be somebody, to be in a state of mind, to feel something - and by golly! They will. It's like playing with some very sophisticated clay. You can model anything with such a person.
With this type of material it becomes very tempting to try to see the actual person behind it all, understand the talents that he or she has, and then rethink it all. How could they look, how could they be casted? And so it was in this where I played an inrresponsible game of playing with the person and see what I could get out of it.
Terence Hines in a local flowerbed on Melrose Avenue, asked to be in a jungle. Leica M9 with 50mm Noctilux-M f/1.0.
One such actor is Terence Hines whom I shot at Melrose Avenue in Los Angeles some weeks ago. We simply went out on the street with a gold reflector and camera and some different shirts for him to wear.
Terence Hines is often cast in roles where he is the happy guy or the surprising character that gets the audience to wake up and pay attention.
I happen to come from a small country where actors are not as typecast because they would run out of work if they could only do one or few characters. So perhaps I see everybody in anybody, at least I pretended I didn't know better. And the result was surprising and fun to do. Who knows what roles Terence might end up in, in the future?
I don't know, and I think nobody does. I asked him to be somebody and something he doesn't normal get asked to be. Perhaps that is the real beauty of our two hour work a late afternoon in Los Angeles.
American actor Terence Hines with Leica M9 and Leica 50mm Noctilux-M f/1.0 at f/1.0 in sunshine with 3-stop ND filter.
Previous stories on portrait photography:
"I never look good in pictures"
"Always wear a camera"
"Perhaps being you is the answer"