Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Rachel Bilson

Rachel Bilson, Toronto, Sept. 11, 2006

I HAD NEVER BEEN CLOSER TO MAINSTREAM ENTERTAINMENT CULTURE IN MY CAREER than in my years at the free daily. I was not - still am not - a very mainstream person by taste or inclination, so I often needed someone to explain to me just why the person I was about to photograph was a big deal. For that, I relied either on Tina, the paper's entertainment editor, or Chris, the writer with whom I worked for much of my time at the free daily.

I had heard of Rachel Bilson while writing the daily TV column for the paper, but since the vehicle that made her famous was a prime time soap, I had never seen an episode and had no idea what she looked like. The young woman who walked into the hotel room at the Intercontinental where I did this shoot was best described as pixie-like - tiny, and with huge eyes only slightly emphasized by the makeup person in close attendance.

Rachel Bilson, Toronto, Sept. 11, 2006

As I've written here before, it's hardly a challenge to get a decent photo out of a photogenic person - someone whose livelihood, in fact, springs from their camera-friendly appearance - who is years past sitting down in front of a photographer and apologizing for feeling awkward. Bilson - whose family worked in the movie industry, and whose Los Angeles high school classmates included Kirsten Dunst and Remi Malek - had likely never been at liberty to use that excuse.

Looking at these photos from over a decade's remove - during which Ms. Bilson has starred in her own series, had a child, ended a relationship with another big name actor and prepared to debut another TV series - I can't help but think that my photos of Rachel Bilson are slightly anthropological in nature.

This young woman was very much a creature of Hollywood, and my portraits of her aren't dissimilar to pictures I might have taken of some rare, semi-tame but wholly exotic subject. She probably wouldn't have been put in front of a photographer without wardrobe, a stylist and a small team of handlers to approve setups, but she was at a film festival promoting her first starring role in a movie, so the usual apparatus had been put away for the moment, in the interest of propagating publicity.

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