I remember reading Andre Gregory’s description of an impromptu headshot session he had with Richard Avedon (who sits at the head of the table in my Pantheon of the Photographic Gods), wherein Avedon riffed through aspects of Gregory’s presence at warp speed – moving a light here, changing an angle there, tossing out direction like a possessed artist, serving up masterpiece after masterpiece capturing the diverse aspects of Gregory’s persona. It was a powerful performance showcasing a photographer’s ability to de-construct his sitter and use light, pose, and expression to crystallize elements of his subject on film. And it provided me with a lifelong goal of learning all of the elements of portraiture to better capture each client in a unique and personalized image.
I was thinking about Avedon’s session with Andre Gregory when my next client arrived, Steve Jones.
Steve came to New York City in 1991 to pursue an acting career. Having a knack for both zany comedic roles and serious dramatic ones, parts came his way ranging from Alexi the dog at The Living Theater and You Can’t Take It With You (Ed) to Julius Caesar (Brutus) and Dancing at Lughnasa (Michael) at regional theaters. Adept at impressions, he was also Nickelodeon’s “voice of Bill Clinton” for a few years.
After taking a 19-year detour to pursue other interests, Steve was no longer able to deny acting is his true passion. And, of course, getting new headshots had to be the first step in re-entering the business. Here are two photos that Steve sent me as a visual to work with in order to make suggestions for types and clothing.
Steve had a very malleable face and a wide range of interpretations came to mind when I was thinking about how to shoot him. We discussed actors who had similar qualities with names as diverse as Keifer Sutherland, John Lithgow, and Norman Fell. There was a wide range to encompass, so I decided to see how many different ways we could capture his presence in our scheduled 4 look session, but stay true to his persona.
Below are the images that came from our 4 hour session.
And then we decided to really open it up and play with more specific expressions and characters, just because we were having so much fun.
It was a super fun and productive exercise. And it solidified my belief that variety in headshots is the spice of life. No one single approach can capture the range and diversity of actors out there, or even the range within one actor. Thank you Richard Avedon for pointing the way, I am just a pilgrim on that trail :).