Tuesday, August 12, 2014


Peter Jackson, Toronto 1994

PETER JACKSON'S LATEST HOBBIT FILM COMES OUT THIS CHRISTMAS, and barring a global Ebola pandemic, I can't see why it won't make millions. These portraits were shot at the beginning of his career, however, when he was at the Toronto International Film Festival to promote Heavenly Creatures, the sort of film that he really doesn't make any more.

As with any film festival shoot, it was shot at one of four or five hotels; the black and white portraits were done with window light, and in this case using my Canon EOS Elan autofocus - my 35mm SLR for most of the '90s. I was an assignment for NOW magazine, as usual, and they'd obviously decided that Jackson would get the cover, since I shot two whole rolls of black and white film and two rolls of 120 colour slide.

Peter Jackson, Toronto 1994

I didn't like shooting slide film; it took away the control I'd get in the darkroom, so I'm guessing that there was a deadline, and that the paper needed the colour cover shots quickly. I'd obviously brought along a flash - my Metz potato masher with a Speedotron battery - and judging from the reflection in Jackson's eye, I used a soft box, not an umbrella. The background was one of my old standbys - the back of a hotel curtain, draped over a floor lamp or a poster stand. Along with my Rollei case, this was my standard portable studio set-up.

I can't say that I'm taken with the results. It's a merely passable portrait, with a distracting background and a subject who's definitely posing. This was why I preferred shooting in the studio, where I'd have time to set up lights and backgrounds at leisure, and deal with the subject in relative tranquility, without a publicist behind my shoulder, ready to cut my time short.

Peter Jackson, Toronto 1994

The black and whites are more successful. He's still posing, but the compositions are tighter and the background's not an issue. I could probably go back and do better scans of these shots, but they'll do for now. I can't remember a thing about Jackson. He was clearly happy to be in front of the camera, as his career was starting to take off with a perceptible rush. Pretty good for a guy who, just a few years earlier, was best known for a film about puppets fucking each other.

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