Thursday, July 26, 2018

Monica Bellucci

Monica Bellucci, Toronto, Sept. 8, 2007

THERE IS A BASIC - AND CONSIDERABLE - PROBLEM WITH SHOOTING REALLY BEAUTIFUL PEOPLE. This can be summed up with the maxim that the quality of the photo you take and the skill you've acquired on the way to taking it is largely immaterial, since most people will react to even a mediocre photo of a really beautiful person by saying "Oh, that's lovely."

They're responding more to the subject than the photo, basically, and it might bother other photographers less than it bothers me, but it's perfectly embodied in this shoot I did with actress Monica Bellucci at the film festival in 2007.

It has to be understood that Bellucci isn't merely an attractive actress - there are plenty of those - but one of cinema's Great Beauties: An actress whose beauty has often been the defining characteristic of roles she has played, much as it would have been with previous Great Beauties like Sophia Loren, Marilyn Monroe and others. And as soon as I was given the assignment to photograph Bellucci I felt a wave of panic wash over me.

Monica Bellucci, Toronto, Sept. 8, 2007

I've written about this shoot before but it's worth describing one more time. I showed up at the suite at the Intercontinental for the shoot to discover it was one of the rooms without much in the way of window light, but that a television crew had set up in the space. I politely asked one of the techs if it was possible to use their lights for my shoot as the room's ambient light was far from sufficient (or attractive.) He said yes, and I set up a couple of quartz heads in a crossfire next to a light wall; it wasn't the loveliest light ever, but it was bright and directional and just soft enough and I hoped that I could make it work.

Bellucci showed up with hair and makeup people in tow, and while they had no doubt done their job well, the light I chose was just harsh enough that I have done some considerable Photoshop work to smooth out the original photos. I was desperate to keep my subject looking as neutral as possible - I wanted something at least a little glamorous but I didn't want to encourage her to adopt any of the poses she might have learned over hundreds of previous photo shoots, so I gave her even less direction than I would normally. (Which is to say almost none at all besides "look at me" and "look away.")

The results are stark - I've tried to make them starker with considerable retouching - but still not quite where I'd have got them with a bit more time and preparation. Nonetheless, the shots I posted to this blog nearly three years ago have been shared around online with the expected reaction - look at these beautiful photos of a beautiful woman. Which just confirms my suspicion that a really beautiful subject requires a photographer concerned about their style over just taking glamour photos to work much harder. Mind you, it's a challenge I'm more than happy to accept.

1 comment:

  1. monica bellucci is one of the most sexist italian women on the plant