Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Kenny Robinson

Kenny Robinson, Parkdale, 1998

I LOVED MY STUDIO, BUT WHEN I TOOK THESE PICTURES I HAD BARELY A YEAR LEFT TO ENJOY IT. Not that I knew it at the time. This probably explains why I've been loathe to scan and post this shoot until now: It reminds me of the last time I still felt like I had the means and the opportunity to do the work I really wanted to do.

Kenny Robinson is an actor and comedian, and I was assigned to shoot him for a NOW cover on short notice. My schedule was hardly overbooked, but with just enough time to set up the studio, I quickly put together my favorite lighting setup at the time - a tight cluster of small soft boxes on either side of my camera, aimed directly at the subject - and grabbed the blue seamless backdrop.

Kenny Robinson, Parkdale, 1998

We were both surprised when Robinson arrived at my studio dressed in a suit almost exactly the same shade as the backdrop. Commercial photography is really just graphic art with a few reasonable variables, and even before I had my first Polaroid I knew these shots were going to look great no matter how they got cropped by the layout people.

Kenny Robinson, Parkdale, 1998

Robinson was a great subject, striking just the right balance between comic mugging and a more subtle performance for the camera. I'm sure it helped that he was able to imagine how he looked so easily, his face the only patch of colour in what was an essentially monochrome setting. You might have imagined a week's worth of planning with a stylist and a wardrobe person to get something this clean, instead of a moment of pure luck.

While I remember this stretch of my career as mostly frustration and waning inspiration, shoots like are evidence that when circumstances were right, I was able to draw on over a decade of experience and rise to an occasion. It has taken me nearly two decades to get back creatively to where I was that afternoon.

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