Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Sam Riley

Sam Riley, Toronto, Sept. 7, 2007

SAM RILEY WAS THE CLOSEST I EVER GOT TO PHOTOGRAPHING IAN CURTIS. I was a huge Joy Division fan, so it goes without saying that a biopic about the man and his band - directed by Anton Corbijn, the photographer whose work with the band I idolized - was a very major deal for me at the 2007 film festival.

So is it fair to say that I went about photographing Sam Riley, the actor who made his debut in Control playing Curtis, much the way I might have imagined shooting Curtis, had I ever got the chance? Judging by these pictures, I don't think there's much doubt about that.

Sam Riley, Toronto, Sept. 7, 2007

To be fair, Riley was virtually unknown when he arrived in town with Corbijn and Control. (Fun fact: Riley played Mark E. Smith, lead singer of the Fall, in Michael Winterbottom's 2002 masterpiece 24 Hour Party People, but was left on the cutting room floor.) Curtis was the only material I had to work with trying to pre-visualize his portrait (and I did spend some time trying to imagine how to pull this off.)

In the end, I did just what Corbijn himself had told me to do twenty years previous, when Chris Buck and I interviewed and photographed him: I found the spot in the hotel room where the light from the window dropped off to something low but flat and took photos that I knew I'd process with as much contrast as they could bear. You could say that it took me that long to fully digest that lesson, and that - like many of my influences - I was finally free to move beyond their circumscribed orbit.

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