Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Viggo Mortensen

Viggo Mortensen, Toronto, Feb. 2004

THE LAST LORD OF THE RINGS MOVIE HAD COME OUT THE PREVIOUS YEAR when I photographed Viggo Mortensen for the free daily. He was in town promoting Hidalgo, his latest film; A History of Violence would come out the next year, and he was probably at the peak of his matinee idol status.

I wasn't particularly overawed by the shoot or my subject. I'd photographed plenty of celebrities during my decade with NOW magazine, and was probably more concerned about the unfamiliar new digital camera I was using. What I didn't know was that this was just the beginning of five years of shooting more celebrities in more hotel rooms than I'd ever done at NOW.

Viggo Mortensen, Toronto, Feb. 2004

The Mortensen shoot was really business as usual as far as I can tell. He was, by any regular standard, a good looking guy who probably knew it, and knew well enough how to present himself to a camera. I'm sure this was the old Four Seasons in Yorkville (it had most favoured hotel status with the movie companies) and I posed him in the pocket of  flattering light made by the little alcove by the window, the same basic spot where I'd photographed Joel Schumacher four years previous, the last time I'd been shooting portraits.

Viggo Mortensen, Toronto, Feb. 2004

I'm honestly surprised at how much I managed to get out of Mortensen - in addition to slightly smouldering headshot in the middle, I got him to put on just enough of a little performance to get the other two shots. I was still treating the Canon Rebel the paper had loaned me just like I would my old Canon Elan 35mm SLR; it would actually take me a few years to really grasp the big differences between film and digital images, prime among which was how much detail, both in the shadows and highlights, could be mined from a frame.

Viggo Mortensen was only the second celebrity I'd shoot after the free daily put me back to work as a photographer. I had no way of knowing how many more celebrity portraits I'd end up doing in the next five years, and probably assumed this was just a bit of a lark. I had also, for all intents and purposes, stopped thinking of myself as a professional photographer and more usually referred to myself as a "writer with a camera," so I'd forgotten about portfolios or getting other work, and shoots like this would end up forgotten on a hard drive after I'd filed my edited jpegs. This is the first anyone has seen of them for nearly fifteen years.

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