Thursday, January 15, 2015


Rosamund Pike, Toronto, Sept. 6, 2007

THEY ANNOUNCED THE OSCAR NOMINEES TODAY, so I thought this was a good time to dip through my archives for familiar names. I didn't have to look far - every name I had was on this side of the analog wall, shot in the last decade, mostly at the Toronto International Film Festival, for the free national daily.

Rosamund Pike got a best actress nomination for Gone Girl, but I photographed her when she was at the film festival for either Fugitive Pieces or Fracture or both. She's probably one of the half dozen most beautiful women I've ever shot, which helps when you've got five minutes (or less) in a hotel room with whatever available light makes it into the room.

There is, to be fair, a tiny bit of retouching done on this photo, but not a lot. I was lucky, both with my subject and with the light that made it into the room that day. This was taken less than eight years ago, but I'm certain that a star of Pike's stature, newly credentialed with an Oscar nomination, would probably be off limits to mere low-level newspaper photographers now.

Mark Ruffalo, Toronto, Sept. 13, 2007

I photographed Mark Ruffalo a few days later, at the same film festival. He's been nominated for a supporting actor Oscar for Foxcatcher. He was in Toronto for either Zodiac or Reservation Road back in 2007, and while The Avengers was still in the future, he'd been having a pretty decent career so far, including In The Cut's explicit sex scene with Meg Ryan - one of those benchmarks on Hollywood's inexorable journey to producing pure porn.

You could either try to make a feature of the hotel rooms you were shooting in or you could save time by finding a decent patch of light and working on a close-up. Since time was of the essence ("five minutes" to most publicists is closer to two or three) I usually chose the latter, and found it best to just get up close with the subject and let the inherent awkwardness of the situation inspire at least one or two interesting expressions. As you can tell from the sliver of focus on Ruffalo's face, there wasn't much light in this room, and I was lucky that the centre of his face fell within it.

Bennett Miller, Toronto, Sept. 10, 2005

My portrait of best director nominee Bennett Miller (Foxcatcher) is probably the weakest of the bunch, but it's also the oldest. He was at the festival for Capote, his debut feature, so access wasn't an issue. With just two films to his name, he was a mostly unknown quantity but made up for it by being by far the most intense subject I shot at that year's festival.

Perhaps I was hoping that intensity would make up for the backlighting blowing out this picture. In 2005 I was only just starting to get back into shooting regularly again after a couple of slack years, and the rustiness showed here.

Alejandro Gonzalez Iñárritu, Toronto, Sept. 9, 2006

Alejandro Gonzalez Iñárritu was in Toronto in 2006 promoting Babel; he's been nominated for an Oscar this year for Birdman, and with films like Amores Perros and 21 Grams in his filmography, he's the sort of director who'll never be a stranger to Oscar ceremonies.

I don't remember much about this shoot except that it was rushed, and that my only light was a very flat bit of creamy wall just around the corner from a very busy press office. I could have asked him to take off his bucket hat, but I liked the texture it gave the shot, along with his gray wool sweater, and spent most of this very brief shoot playing with the way he had to peer from under its brim. When your range of variables in a shoot, from time to lighting, is so restricted, you learn to focus on the little things.

Wes Anderson, Toronto, Oct. 18, 2007

My shoot with Wes Anderson happened in a particularly dim hotel room, so I was forced to photograph him by the only window. He was in Toronto a month after the film festival, promoting The Darjeeling Unlimited, and it was obvious from his work so far - right up to this year's Oscar-nominated The Grand Budapest Hotel - that he had a very retro sensibility for such a young director.

I'd seen and liked everything he'd made up till that point, so I knew that shooting him in the style of a feature in a '60s British magazine wouldn't be inappropriate, so I pretended the light was coming in from a street in Mayfair and I was working for the Sunday Telegraph. It's the sort of game you learn to play to make these very hurried shoots interesting.

Even though these shots are only a few years old, I know that in the five or six years since I stopped shooting movie people, access has become more restricted and the off-the-cuff hotel room photo shoots that I've done for most of my career are rarer, and far more controlled.

It also says something about either me or the movies in general that I haven't seen most of the films nominated for Oscars this year.



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