Wednesday, October 29, 2014


Holly Hunter, Toronto, Sept. 1993

HOLLY HUNTER WAS AT THE FILM FESTIVAL promoting The Piano, which arrived with Oscar potential all over it. Today this would mean a cordon of publicists, brief round table interviews, select access for a few journalists, and photography restricted to sessions at the WIREimage suite. But 1993 was a long time ago.

It was an obvious cover, so when NOW gave me the assignment I showed up with my gear, to be confronted by the usual hotel room, only smaller; it could have been any of the festival hotels, but for some reason my intuition and the hint of a close room layout says it was the venerable old one - the Park Plaza (now Park Hyatt.)

I'm pretty sure Hunter had a hair and makeup person on hand, but they didn't do much that didn't involve a lipstick, foundation to dull skin highlights and a hair brush. Her hair looked great. And in case you're wondering, I did retouch the colour shot above, to a standard I couldn't have hoped to achieve in the pre-computer days of 1993.

Holly Hunter, Toronto, Sept. 1993

With the customary 7-10 minutes to work in, I decided to drill down to two set-ups, one of which was the cover, then still shot into NOW's painfully restrictive 2/3 whitespace formula. Using a flash in an umbrella and the sheer drapes drawn over a window, I was able to get my high-key setup in place quickly. A roll of Fuji Provia took care of the skin tones, so all I had to worry about was the more creative of the two set-ups - the black and white shot that would probably run full page facing the interview.

Hunter has never had a glamorous image, and at no point in her career has she ever played the sexpot. It was her resolutely normal appeal - a plausible attainability - that made her role in Broadcast News, and the whole film by extension, work so well. She certainly wasn't trying to seduce anyone in her black turtleneck, jeans and socks, and the photo above was the closest any frame I took that day caught her attempting to seem coquettish.

Holly Hunter, Toronto, Sept. 1993

I was grateful for this, and decided to underline this forthright plainness by taking a hotel armchair and ottoman and shoving it into a corner, then placing my flash and umbrella almost directly behind me. The light was both flat and unflattering - anti-Hurrell lighting. Hunter is tiny, and she tucked herself defensively into the chair, pulling up her legs.

I was nearly thirty when I took this, and getting past the point of agonizing about style - either my own, or my influences. I was shooting in situations that didn't give me a lot of control, with subjects I no longer fooled myself I could get to interact with or reveal themselves to me in a handful of carefully monitored minutes.

With shoots like this, I aimed for a style with no style - a record of people as they presented themselves to me. I was producing work that felt true to my situation, but it certainly wasn't winning me jobs from art directors looking for glamour or high concepts.

I still think Broadcast News is Hunter's best film, and even if its media setting is full of anxiety about lowering standards and disappearing jobs, it looks like a golden age over a quarter century later. But when I have to explain to my kids who the lady in these photos is, I just tell them it's Elastigirl.


No comments:

Post a Comment