Thursday, January 14, 2016

Cate Blanchett

Cate Blanchett, Toronto, September 1998

I CAN'T PRETEND MY SHOOT WITH CATE BLANCHETT WAS A NOTABLE SUCCESS. I remember it even now as more than slightly awkward, with neither of us really sure of what we wanted to do on either side of the camera. At the time, she was a young actress with her first really big roles and a reputation as someone to watch, and I wanted to get something nice, but the late '90s were also a period of no small creative exhaustion, coming at the end of a long decade of hotel rooms and available light and increasingly brief shoots in long days of press junketing.

Blanchett was in Toronto publicizing her starring role in Elizabeth, playing the young Tudor queen in a film that would lead to an inevitable sequel and a high profile career that has produced a sixth Oscar nomination for Todd Haynes' Carol. She's won twice now, once for playing Katherine Hepburn in The Aviator, and I won't be the first person to suggest that her career is more like Hepburn's than any other movie star.

Cate Blanchett, Toronto, September 1998

I shot Blanchett for NOW magazine, and since I did three rolls of colour I presume it was for a cover. In these situations I'd have shot a roll of black and white as well, but I can't find any in my files, so perhaps we were running the cover spread with colour as well by this point. As I've said before, my memories of this period are vague, at best.

After a brief hiatus I'd returned to cross-processing, doubtless trying to throw some random element into these hotel room shoots. Instead of looking for blocky, oversaturated colour, though, I was using 400 speed slide film (usually Fujichrome) and shooting it as rated, which resulted in negatives with only slight colour shifts and a faintly retro look, like old Kodachrome.

The top and bottom shots are cross-processed, while the one in the middle is regular colour negative film. The frame below gives some idea of what I'd come to bank on with cross-processed 400 ASA slide film after nearly a decade of experimenting - warm skin tones, vivid primaries, and a slight green cast in the shadows. The frame at the top, though has been heavily manipulated in Photoshop to look like a hand-coloured black and white photo - something I couldn't have done in the darkroom back then, and a look that I think has some potential.

Cate Blanchett, Toronto, September 1998

Blanchett has had a very nice career, I think. Not a conventional beauty, she's been lucky enough to be spared the cheesecake and nude scenes and has worked with practically every worthwhile director in and outside of Hollywood. It's not to say that she's without her particular charms; she has a great face for period films, though I found her at her most attractive recently playing a highly tailored and psychotic rogue CIA officer in Hanna, which probably says more about me than anything else.

I've never really revisited this shoot until now, so strong was the lingering memory of Blanchett's nervous, unsure demeanor in front of my camera. I don't remember much except that she kept sharing bemused glances with her husband, Andrew Upton, and that she had very big feet and hands. Don't ask me why that detail has lingered.


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