Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Lili Taylor

Lili Taylor, Toronto, Sept.1995

WE MUST HAVE REALLY LIKED LILI TAYLOR A LOT AT NOW MAGAZINE because I seem to have photographed her for the cover twice in two years. Both shoots took place at the film festival, which was where I shot most of my really high profile portraits every year, and probably the reason why, long after I had left school, I still had the feeling that a new year really began in September and not January.

Taylor was having a good career back then. After supporting roles in Mystic Pizza and Born on the Fourth of July, she had her breakthrough in Nancy Savoca's Dogfight, co-starring with River Phoenix. My first shoot with her was probably when she was at the Festival promoting Savoca's follow-up, Household Saints, which seems to have disappeared into obscurity, as there's no DVD release and only VHS copies for sale online.

Lili Taylor, Toronto, Sept.1993

I met her at the Sutton Place Hotel and took her to a little park just north, next to St. Basil's church, and posed her in front of a stainless steel sculpture that's still there. The paper was obviously still in thrall to the "two-thirds blank space" cover template, so imagine the NOW logo at the top of the frame and type running down the right side of a cropped rectangle. It was challenging but never rewarding, and tended to suck the creative life out of a portrait shoot.

And yes, I know I'm making excuses.

Lili Taylor, Toronto, Sept.1995

The second shoot, two festivals later, was probably at the Sutton Place again, where Taylor was in a hotel room with director Abel Ferrara promoting The Addiction, a vampire story. By now the 2/3 template was history, and I could no longer be bothered trying to disguise the hotel rooms where I did so much shooting.

By the mid-'90s I was making the curtains, wallpaper and faux-antique furniture in hotels like the Sutton Place, Four Seasons and Park Plaza features in my photos; since I couldn't get all these people to come to my studio, it seemed more productive to treat the hotel rooms as studios, and turn their luxurious blandness into a feature.

Lili Taylor & Abel Ferrara, Toronto, Sept.1995

With the second Taylor shoot, I'd also decided to try something counterintuitive. Photographers are taught that one thing that separates amateurs from professionals is composition, and more specifically filling the shot with your subject instead of putting their face beneath the focusing grid in the centre of the frame. I'd diligently done this for years, but ten years into my career I thought it was time I tried to break learned habits and go against rules that were starting to seem arbitrary.

Taylor's defining role would come a year later when she played Valerie Solanis in Mary Harron's I Shot Andy Warhol. It was the sort of role that an actress more concerned about sex appeal and prolonging her ingenue status would never have taken. Taylor was a lot more interesting than that, and she's continued working regularly to this day, shifting between movies and regular TV roles in shows like Six Feet Under and American Crime.

It's probably worth noting that Taylor, a striking and photogenic person, is the sort of actor Hollywood calls on when they need to cast a character that the script might call plain or even unattractive. This is one of the reasons why I don't think the word "realistic" should ever be used to describe a movie.

No comments:

Post a Comment