Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Rhys Ifans

Rhys Ifans, Toronto, Sept. 2004

RETURNING TO PORTRAIT WORK IN 2004 WAS A LOT LIKE GETTING BACK ON A BICYCLE. They say you never forget how to ride a bike - I learned that's actually true a few years ago - and the surprising thing about the photos I took when I was put back to work shooting was how quickly I picked up old habits.

I photographed the Welsh actor Rhys Ifans in the Four Seasons in Yorkville, that much I know for sure. The particular quality of light in those rooms, unimpeded on almost every side through the large windows, was a gift that year, since I'd spent so much time shooting there during the NOW years. The latest renovation had simplified the decor, with subtly textured, cool white wallpaper and equally plain draperies that bounced the sunlight around the space, an almost perfect shooting space.

Rhys Ifans, Toronto, Sept. 2004

It was immediately clear that Ifans had a great face, and a clear, unerring gaze that's very likely a gift when he's being shot in close-up. I had my 50mm lens on the paper's Canon digital SLR and went right in, doing a few simple headshots before moving in as close as I could, giving his face half the frame for a few shots - it had worked years ago with Bruce Dern in the same hotel and there's no shame in copying yourself - before switching to a horizontal, cinema frame and giving Ifans the sort of tight close-up that he obviously knew how to address.

Ifans, introduced to North American audiences with his scene-stealing role as Hugh Grant's roommate in Notting Hill - was at the festival to promote Enduring Love, a small but wrenching little tragedy where he had second billing to Daniel Craig, a year before he became James Bond. Ifans would join the cast of the Harry Potter films, and even play a comic book villain in a Spider Man film. He had, in the brief encounter we shared, an almost unnerving way of engaging with my camera, a stare that managed to be both intimate and confrontational.

Rhys Ifans, Toronto, Sept. 2004

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