Monday, July 16, 2018

Chris Tucker

Chris Tucker, Toronto, July 17, 2007

I SUPPOSE I PHOTOGRAPHED CHRIS TUCKER IN THE MIDDLE OF A CAREER CRISIS. Perhaps that's why he was a more than usually tense subject, even for a big celebrity. Or perhaps Tucker just isn't very relaxed in front of some random newspaper photographer for whom he's obliged to make faces. I'm pretty sure I might be the same way, were I in his situation.

Tucker was in Toronto promoting the third film in the Rush Hour series. He'd had his breakthrough alongside Ice Cube in Friday, then become a celebrity with three films in 1997 - Money Talks, Jackie Brown and The Fifth Element. The first Rush Hour film was a monster hit, and for the next decade he didn't seem to do much but team up with Jackie Chan for its sequels.

An actor with his status should have probably been working much more often, which is why I interpret this period in his career as a crisis, but knowing the kind of money a hit franchise can generate, perhaps he was simply thinking "Why work if you don't have to?" (But then again, Tucker would end up settling a $2.4 million dollar tax debt seven years after I took these photos, so maybe I was right.)

Chris Tucker, Toronto, July 19, 2007

Technically, this was like much of 2007 - "another shoot, another camera." This time I was testing out the Olympus E-510, which was a bit of a shift in their DSLR line, from a Kodak CCD digital sensor to a Panasonic MOD sensor. Whatever that means, the result was a much more smooth and detailed jpeg than I had been used to working with up till then. It also marked a shift to a fixed 3:4 sized sensor from the more film-like 2:3 aspect ratio.

It has to be noted that digital cameras during this period were evolving pretty quickly, increasing in resolution with each new generation and improving their sensitivity in low light and at higher ISO settings. By contrast, digital photo technology seems to have plateaued a decade later, with only minor improvements being offered with new models.

I was a bit wrongfooted by Tucker's very reserved attitude as a subject, so I just went into a default look for much of this shoot and had him adopt an old Hollywood screen idol kind of pose - the result of which is the frame at the top of this post. The shot at the bottom is the result of looking at the jpegs again for the first time in over a decade and finding something interesting in the unnaturally smooth colour rendition the camera produced; pumping a bit more warmth into the image in Photoshop gave it a quality that I associate more with digital photos than film, where even the most basic portrait (like this one) takes on a plastic, processed quality that lends the image a faint strangeness I wouldn't have seen through the viewfinder.

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