Wednesday, August 8, 2018

David Schwimmer

David Schwimmer, Toronto, Sept. 10, 2007

IT HAD BEEN JUST THREE YEARS SINCE FRIENDS AIRED ITS LAST EPISODE when David Schwimmer arrived at the film festival with his debut film as a director. That would make him a big star, but he was strangely subdued when I photographed him - as low key and eager to please as a young actor here with his first feature.

I understood his reticence; typecasting ruins careers, and after ten years playing Ross Geller, Schwimmer had to manage his next moves carefully to avoid playing high-strung nerds for the rest of his working life. I thought he'd already been terribly brave taking a role on the HBO WW2 miniseries Band of Brothers as the martinet Lt. Sobel, a character likely hated by viewers more than Hitler.

David Schwimmer, Toronto, Sept. 10, 2007

All of this - Schwimmer's uneasy career moment, his unprepossessing attitude that day - made me feel more than usually sympathetic to him as a subject. I'm not saying that I approach every subject as an adversary (though it's not a bad tactic when circumstances demand it) but I had an empathy for Schwimmer at that moment which I rarely feel at a portrait session. Perhaps that was his tactic all along.

Looking over the photos I shot at the 2007 festival, I'm amazed at how much I'd relaxed into the initially difficult lighting I found in the rooms at the Intercontinental on Bloor. There's a flattering softness to the room light that I'd have a hard time replicating in a well-equipped studio. I didn't know it at the time but I was passing through another steep learning curve, a challenge that I neither sought nor imagined when I had a camera put back in my hands just three years earlier.

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