Monday, July 4, 2016

Steve Buscemi

Steve Buscemi, Toronto, Sept. 1992

THIS BLOG IS ALMOST TWO YEARS OLD. I may or may not have passed the halfway point of excavated old photo shoots, but now seemed like a good time to revisit some work I posted early on and see if there was more worth seeing. In the first month of posts I put up a scan of a photo of Steve Buscemi I found in a box of 5x7 proof prints, back from when he was still a character actor known for roles with names like "Dead Pimp," "Switchblade" and "Whining Willie."

I didn't think much of it at the time, and concluded that I hadn't done much with my fifteen minutes with Buscemi in the lobby of the Sutton Place hotel, back when his career was getting a sudden boost thanks to his portrayal of Mr. Pink in Reservoir Dogs. It would be a while before I dug out the contact sheets from the shoot - a sheet of 35mm black and white and another of 120 black and white, shot on my Rolleiflex and proof that I thought enough of Buscemi to try and get something more than just a headshot.

Steve Buscemi, Toronto, Sept. 1992

He looks so young here. I'm sure I looked a lot younger back then, as well. He was in Toronto just a month ahead of the general release of Reservoir Dogs, but it was likely he was really here to promote In The Soup, an independent film that was released at the same time and got lost with the success of Quentin Tarantino's film.

I'd seen Buscemi in a lot of films by then - Mystery Train, New York Stories, Miller's Crossing, Barton Fink - and liked him a lot. I like character actors a lot more than romantic leads, and obviously wanted to get something that captured the nervy intensity he'd bring to roles like Carl in Fargo, or Donny in The Big Lebowski.

Steve Buscemi, Toronto, Sept. 1992

He was a lot cooler in person than in his onscreen roles, and my shots capture a young but not inexperienced actor, slightly wary but cooperative enough in front of my camera, and aware that his great physical gift is a pair of large and unusually expressive eyes.

Going through the negatives I realized that I had a lot more here than I remembered, and certainly more than I guessed when I scanned that old proof print two years ago. I know that I couldn't have handed in prints this shadowy to NOW magazine almost twenty-five years ago, given the crude limitations of newsprint, so I never tried to make these shots as moody. Perhaps I've learned a lot more after two years of working intensely with better scanners and Photoshop.

Steve Buscemi, Toronto, Sept. 1992

I do know that it's gratifying to find something in my files I didn't know I had - to be able to go from "Yeah, I think I shot Steve Buscemi way back in the day" to "Oh yeah, I've got Buscemi - you want to see them?"

Mostly I feel vindicated that my hunch about how good Buscemi was turned out to be true, and that he's had a very decent career since his days of playing Whining Willies. My hunches didn't always play out this well, but today I can pull these shots out and marvel to myself that I shot Nucky fucking Thompson.

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