Editorial Portrait Photography
I like it when the work is hard and my clients ask me to do difficult things on the edge of my capacity. Now, after 30 years working in editorial portrait photography, much of my work is easy. It is not that I don’t work hard, but I don’t struggle to see what and how to do things any longer. I “see” editorial portrait before I have raised a camera. I see the idea, composition, lighting and approach quickly; too quickly I think.
As a commercial artist, I think “easy” can be dangerous because I am seeing what is easy to see and fear I am missing new and novel ways of seeing. New ways of doing photography and composing photographs. New ways of seeing the world.
I welcome challenges and the struggle to find something I might not see ordinarily but I am not always as successful as I would like even when everyone is happy with the images. What makes me the happiest is when I can make a photograph that meets the client’s needs but is not characteristic of what I would usually do. Something a bit out of the box.
I think I got there with the editorial portrait photography of professor and pharmacist Mell Baron. His was one of a few portraits and narrative images I made for the viewbook of USC Keck School of Pharmacy.
Mel grew up and worked in East Los Angeles, and this interested me, so I took the time to imagine the picture. I stood on the corner Soto and Cesar Chavez for 20 minutes trying to reimagine how to shoot it.
The result was something different than I might usually have done. Less heroic but more biographical and evocative then I tend to do. I was satisfied.
We shot on a busy street corner in East LA using Profoto’s to light him while shot him from across the street. Normally I would not want pedestrians and cars passing through my set but in this case, the traffic worked into my idea of the image.
The rest of the project was also satisfying but for different reasons. I had to work fast and come up with solutions for the images I was tasked with. There was no time to sit and ponder I just had to know how to do things on the fly. I organized students, know how each set was going to be lit immediately and still was prepared for the unexpected. The shoot was smooth, extremely productive, and I had worked to my full capacity during a 10-hour day. I was satisfied and my clients were satisfied.
One moment I had to make a portrait at high noon of someone under a silk and the next I am using Profoto’s to light Mel on a busy street corner, followed up by photographing a pharmaceutical lab using available light and speed lights. I just love working to my full capacity.
The greatest thing was that my clients leaned on me for locations and know how to make it all happen and they were happy in the end.