Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Halle Berry

Halle Berry, Toronto, March 21, 2007

WHAT AMAZES ME IS THAT THESE PICTURES TURNED OUT AT ALL. I photographed Halle Berry in a room at the Windsor Arms hotel when she was in town doing publicity for Perfect Stranger, a thriller where she co-starred with Bruce Willis. A few years earlier I'd have just been surprised by getting a session with someone like Berry - a real celebrity and movie star, a Bond Girl and the winner of an Academy Award.

But by 2007 I was accustomed to having access - however brief - to some pretty big Hollywood names. I was still wrestling with the challenge of trying to push for something even faintly dramatic in the scant minutes (really seconds) I had with them, so I'm amazed that I chose to walk into a shoot with Berry holding a camera I'd never used before, into a situation where finding decent light had proved to be difficult in the past.

I'd added the role of tech column writer to my list of responsibilities at the free daily, and naturally I liked to review new cameras, like the Sony a100 I was using that day. While there was a bit of accidental synergy happening with this - Perfect Stranger was released by Sony Pictures - I was taking a bit of a risk by trusting the results of my shoot to the first-ever DSLR made by the company.

Halle Berry, Toronto, March 21, 2007

It turned out that the a100 - like quite a few of the early digital SLRs at the time - had a bit of an issue with shooting in low light. And the Windsor Arms, while a luxurious hotel, was notable for its small windows and lack of daylight (especially compared to hotels like the old Four Seasons a block or two away.) I knew as soon as I saw the room that I'd have a lot of work to do in Photoshop.

It wasn't that Berry needed the work. Far from it - she was as lovely in real life as she appeared onscreen. But the light was poor and lacked vibrance or focus, and I was going to lose quite a bit of detail by shooting at ISO 1600. Additionally, the autofocus system on the a100 had a hard time locking onto Berry in the dim room, reducing the number of really usable shots.

There's no shortage of really glamorous photos of someone like Halle Berry out there; I knew that my portraits wouldn't be among them. These shots work - if they work at all - as vaguely arty snapshots of a person who photographs really well, but who knows that her bare minimum in front of a camera will come off so much better than most other people. The technical limitations of my equipment and the shortcomings of the location combined to create what I would have considered at any other time in my career to be an unacceptably narrow window of success.

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