William Shatner is best known for his role as Captain James T Kirk on the Starship Enterprise. I’ve had the honour and pleasure of having him in front of my lens on two occasions. In total my time spent photographing him has equated to 15 minutes. 15 minutes with Bill.
Being an ardent Star Trek fan, as well as prolific portrait photographer with a strong reputation for icons of stage and screen, this short time with the screen legend has amounted to an extraordinary experience. Yes I’m just a little star struck.
To meet one of your childhood heroes can be both awe-inspiring and utterly terrifying at the same time. Now try operating a camera under the pressure!
Where it All Began
My first sitting with William Shatner was back on 12th February 2015. At the time I was travelling to LA and wanted to take the opportunity to include Shatner in my Expressive Portraits exhibition.
Prior to my LA trip I had written to Shatner expressing my wish to include him in the project. I have to admit it was a stab in the dark. Nonetheless, the reply came that he would do me the honour of accepting my invitation.
In preparation for the shoot, I arrived at Shatner’s office at 10am feeling a mixture of nerves, apprehension, and barely-concealed excitement. As I approached the window I could see a large looming figure behind the blinds. It was him. There, right before me stood one of my childhood ‘greats’. Gulp.
The door was opened by Kathleen, Mr Shatner’s PA, who kindly informed me I had just 10 minutes to set up and 5 minutes to shoot as he was due to take a flight. No pressure then! I couldn’t let my nerves get the better of me, but how to shoot a living legend in just 5 minutes?
Fortunately experience prevailed and I was ready and waiting as Bill entered to take his seat on the stool. In my mind’s eye he was, until this point, a flamboyant character. As I took a deep breath and introduced myself I realised I was completely wrong. Rather than brash and larger than life, Shatner is a very quietly spoken man of only a few words.
As a portraitist I have learned to separate the individual’s character as an actor from the characters they have played. In the interests of simplicity (bearing in mind the 5 minute window) I opted straight for this method. However, my initial direction didn’t receive the response I’d hoped for. My request for a plain expression was met with “I don’t do plain!” I quickly took the opportunity to explain my reasoning: that as a character actor the viewer needed a blank canvas, an expressionless person, on which to hang their own thoughts. No good, no bad, no love, no hate, no character, just an opportunity to view and assume. In my experience it is this essence which makes an image thought-provoking and memorable.
With my explanation, Bill became more amiable. Deep breath again, using the word “emotionless” in preference to “plain”, this time he agreed. Mr Shatner took his own breath, closed his eyes, and then looked up directly in to the lens, clearly having cleared his mind of thought or question.
I clicked. The result was my first thought-provoking portrait of William Shatner. In 5 minutes magic had been created.
Second Time, Double Time
The second time I photographed Shatner was when I returned to LA in April 2016. Once more I got in touch to arrange a sitting. I had so much more I wanted to explore in the subject that is William Shatner. I was truly delighted to learn of his acceptance. Even more, Shatner himself was ecstatic with my first efforts. I’d done it, in just 5 minutes!
The sitting took place on 4th April 2016. Once again I turned up at the office to be greeted by Mr Shatner’s assistant. This time I met a more relaxed Shatner with nowhere to go, and a little more time on his hands. He was more casually dressed, wearing a black shirt as I had requested, and was available for the double the previous five minutes.
Preparation for a Portrait Sitting
Before any sitting I always spend time planning. This ‘behind the scenes’ time is invaluable for the ultimate portrait. In the case of Shatner I spent hours looking at material from both films and television programmes, as well as reviewing and assessing the other available portraits of Bill to date. There was a common theme running through 99% of them: Bill as the hero.
Speaking about this type casting, Bill has quipped: “I always play the hero and always get the girl.” To make a portrait of Bill that was different and unique I wanted to draw him out of his comfort zone. I wanted to polarise him away from the ‘hero’ and instead get him in the camp of the villain.
Take Robin Williams for example: a face well-documented in comedy and farce. Yet, when he was given the creepy and darker character named Sy in the psychological thriller One Hour Photo, we saw something utterly new, unnerving and compelling.
This became my impetus for the sitting with Shatner. I wanted this to be about Shatner the ‘bad guy’. I took the time to explain my reasoning and idea to Bill and he was very happy and compliant to give it a go.
In directing the screen icon, I drew on Shakespeare. I asked Bill to think about a Shakespearian villain and to assume this as his muse. This enticed Bill to gaze leeringly in to the lens as we transformed the heroic Shatner in to the evil alter-ego.
After 10 minutes, my sitting with Shatner came to an end. In total, I had experienced 15 minutes with one of my absolute screen heroes in front of my lens.
In order to direct an actor who you have admired for many years is an incredible opportunity. Photography is about so much more than merely clicking the shutter and getting some lighting tricks right. Successful photography, and successful portraiture, is about evoking a feeling. This process is impossible without direction. Direction is key.
When I teach photography workshops, students are frequently overawed by the number of different camera and lighting techniques available. This is the stuff of textbooks. However, what transforms you from someone who can operate the equipment to a talented photographer is what happens in that moment when the lights are set up and the camera is ready, and you are alone with the subject. This transcends the techniques and instead becomes about invention. A good photographer, therefore, is a good director.
Shakespeare, in Henry V, once penned:
“Oh, for a muse of fire that would ascend
The brightest heaven of invention!
A kingdom for a stage, princes to act,
And monarchs to behold the swelling scene!”
Emotive and powerful, and rousing to boot, in portrait photography is of utmost importance to set the scene. You must find your muse and use it to direct. You must think outside of the box, and take your inspiration from cinema, art, or simply by digging deep in to the wealth of your own experiences to find something new and original.
Those of you who follow my blog and twitter feed, see me using Lastolite Collapsable Backdrops on the majority of my Portrait Sittings. As a travelling portraitist collapsible backgrounds are a quick and easy solution. They take seconds to set up and pack away making them equally convenient to pop-open in offices & clients homes.
I enjoy shooting portraits with the collapsible backdrops. As a one man band, I can easily accomplish the background set-ups by myself since they fold and unfold like a giant reflector. They are easy to carry on public transport, which is a blessing. The majority of my sittings take place in London. As a regular passinger on the London Underground they are easy to stow in a large suitcase.
As well as single sided backdrops, Lastolite offer reversible backdrops giving you more options. The backdrops I most frequently us are the Black/White, White/Light Gray. I also utilise the dyed/muslin backdrops Wyoming/Mississippi, Virginia /Kentucky. Muslin backdrops give you the choice of colours and patterns.
What are Dyed/Muslin backdrops you may ask; well they date back to the 17th century. They where mostly used in dressmaking back then, as it’s a breathable fabric that drapes niceley. But it also holds dye and paint very well, which moved it into the world of theater, and, eventually, photography. I know what you are thinking, your mind is going back to your days at school, when the school photographer would capture your portrait against an awful dyed backdrop. I thought the same thing, but after looking at the work of the portrait artists of old, Muslins where widely used. Utilising the right lighting and mood these backdrops can help unleash your creativity.
I mostly use the Black/White Collapsible, I love shooting on black so much and this makes my life very easy. The black is especially handy for when I want a completely dark background that has no light reflection. Most of the locations I shoot in are not ideal, sometimes their is a little too much daylight I can’t block out! I find the backdrop absorbs light from the strobe far better than seamless backdrop paper which in my experience seems to catch the light.
Lastolite also offer a selection of Urban Backgrounds bringing the outdoor look, indoors; with a wide selection available. Urban Backgrounds help to save time and costs especially when you trying to find the right location for you portrait photoshoot. (Left Lastolite Urban Collapsible 1.5 x 2.1m Tarnished Metal/Container) The uncontrollable weather and the risk of distractions in the background no longer present challenges. Whether in a studio, or a client’s home, you can create the outdoor look in any location. In conclusion, I couldn’t imagine going back to the days of carrying roles of seamless backdrop paper around, or hunting for a suitable location and in turn praying for good weather.
It is also worth mentioning if you are going to invest in Lastolite Collapsable backdrop system. Make sure you purchase the Magnetic Background Support Kit. The Kit enables photographers to quickly and easily attach any collapsible backgrounds with a steel rim to a traditional lighting stand. The background can be attached to the support at a comfortable height. It is also quick and easy to switch backgrounds; simply pull one off and snap another on.
April saw me spending three weeks back over the pond in Los Angeles, leading me to dub the city my second home. This avenue of photography has really taken off for my business. Back in 2014 it accounted for barely 2% of my work load. Now, in 2016, 15% of my assignments take place in the City of Angels.
On home turf it’s a similar story too. Whilst I will always remain true to my roots, Liverpool used to account for 75% of my work, whereas now 60% of my time is devoted to the capital. As my career has developed I’ve followed my heart, always seeking to let my passion see business sense. The combination seems to be working.
I’m an Englishman in… Los Angeles
Looking from the outside in has given me a different view of Los Angeles from the average LA dweller themselves. It took a bit of adjusting to the laid back surfer dude lifestyle. For a formal portrait photographer this poses one big shift in dynamics: out is the formal attire of military wear and the suited and booted, in comes the shorts, t-shirts and slip flop look. Quite a contrast.
This follows through to business attitudes too. I’m used to presenting my business persona, known to the Americans as the British Stiff Upper Lip. This is a strategy that works well in the corridors of Whitehall, or with eminent London actors, but does leave you feeling a little like a fish out of water in Los Angeles. I’ve had to become chameleon like and change my persona to suit a different brand of clients. In Los Angeles I’m likely to be grabbed en route to the shoot to go grab a taco, crack a few jokes. Shoots will frequently be finished up with a chance to go for dinner when I get quizzed about my works and exhibitions.
With a three week visit this time I wanted to head out and experience the real LA. With the convenience of AirBnB this wasn’t too hard as I could do it from a few different apartments and guest houses.
After 14 hours of flying I was grateful that my first stop-off was in the quiet hills of La Canada Flintridge. A perfect place to relax, unwind and find my feet. I highly recommend the Melrose Trading Post which is open every Sunday. This place is what we would call an antiques and vintage fair in the UK. It’s a delightful mish-mash of stalls with street food and live entertainment. If you want to enjoy some really good food and listen to live music, and buy something vintage make sure you pop along.
Down to Work in Los Angeles William Shatner was the subject of my first portrait sitting, once again in his offices in Studio City. The previous time I had photographed him I had needed to work fast – I had 5 minutes before he had to fly off to a film set. This time was a different affair. He was wonderfully relaxed, sporting linen trousers and sandals, the epitome of the Californian (even though he is Canadian). LA grows on everyone. I was able to direct several different looks and expressions, and was very pleased with the results as was William Shatner himself.
Heading downtown to a studio apartment, I moved in to the hustle and bustle of central LA. Welcome to the cultural melting pot. Downtown is unusually small, not at all like New York or London. Being able to walk these streets was a real pleasure knowing that just 20 years ago this was a No Go zone. Despite the compact downtown area, LA in fact spreads out as far as the eye can see into several cities and towns. Downtown has some wonderful quaint and bohemian places to visit, the Last Book Store is a must. But be careful – you will come out with a box of secondhand books as I did.
My second sitting of the trip was with legendary actor Richard Herd. Quietly renowned, he as starred in a diverse range of movies and television series, mainly in the 1980s. He starred in TJ Hooker & in the science fiction series ‘V’. You may have also seen him in the 1970’s film FIST.
It was a pleasure to be invited to Richard’s home for the sitting. I was delighted to have a look at his own art work, being a keen painter himself. He showed me one of his portraits of Rod Steiger who has starred with him in movies. It was an impressive sight. Richard is now 83 and constitutes my ideal subject for portraiture. He truly has a face that’s been lived in: his features tell the tale of his life, and his aged hands and features make for epic portraiture. His experience as an actor made him a joy to photograph. Richard was at natural ease with direction making my job easier. His poses and expressions were effortless. I donned my thick skin to have him swear at me to express anger, the results were worthwhile!
Sitting Number Three with actor Jonathan Frakes took place at his home way out in Tarzanna. Jonathan once played the role of Commander Riker in Star Trek the Next Generation. Anyone who follows my work knows that I’m a bit of a Trekkie, so this was a real treat for me.
Jonathan is now a director. He’s been responsible for directing many episodes of Marvels Agents of Shield, Falling Skies, and his latest project The Librarians. It was incredibly interesting to meet Jonathan. An exceptionally tall man, I took my wife Sasha with me to assist on the sitting. Sasha being 6’ 2” herself was still dwarfed by him. His stature combined with his natural portrait-ready face made a series of striking frames.
Los Angeles Welcomes My Fourth Sitting . This sitting almost certainly was my favourite. I had the pleasure of photographing actor Jeffry Combs, a true master of talent. Again he tickled my Trekkie fandom, but Combs is also known for his starring role in the 1980’s gore fest, The ReAnimator as well as other roles. I thoroughly enjoyed his performance in “Would You Rather” – it’s a horror movie with an interesting twist.
Meeting Jeff at the entrance of the apartment, we headed out for a taco and a chance to chat about his latest projects – and to get a sense of the man in the flesh ready for his shoot. Jeff is another epitome of Californian style and relaxed charm. His face is animated and expressive and he truly put on a performance for the shoot. I directed him to imagine being giving a parking ticket right after the shoot, the expression was worth it and broke free from the Californian laid back style. Every frame tells a different story. It was a privilege to see each element of my direction reflected in a unique expression, a moment in time caught in portrait. I just hope he didn’t in fact get a parking ticket!
Nearing the End, with My Second-to-Last LA Portrait Sitting
Actor Harry Groener was the star of my penultimate sitting. I was previously due to shoot Harry later in the second week of my visit. However, Harry texted me to say he had just been cast for a part, and the wonderful beard and slightly long hair he was sprouting would have to be cut off. With this in mind we moved the sitting forward. As a wonderful character actor, I wanted to capture Harry as the mammoth of the stage he is. One of the things you understand is that Character Actors enjoy the rugged look: The Stoop, as I like to call it.
Once again, a laid-back character greeted me at the apartment. We worked together to create several different looks and emotions to create a series of wonderful portraits that would challenge and inspire. Harry is an incredibly talented actor, absorbing my photography direction effortlessly.
My Last Photography Sitting in Los Angeles My final sitting of the trip took place at our final destination: The Sportsmen’s Lodge in Studio City. Without a doubt, The Sportsmen’s Lodge is by far our favourite hotel in LA. It is an icon of the 1950s. Incredibly , John Wayne once fished in the lake behind the hotel with his son. The hotel certainly hasn’t lost its charm and is well worth considering it if you’re planning a trip to LA.
Actress Kitty Swink was my final sitting of the trip. Kitty is the wife of my good friend, Armin Shimmerman. A superb actress, Kitty’s eyes are a striking combination of hazel and green. Kitty and Armin mirror my wife and I: one is tall and one is short, and we’re not looking at the usual gender stereotype! For Kitty and Armin this in fact helped the pair to gain a role as a married couple in Dudley Moore’s movie, “Like Father Like Son”. Let’s not forget that Dudley Moore himself would feel at ease with the stature of myself and Armin! Nonetheless, Kitty is generally more a native of the stage as an astounding actress. She is effortlessly expressive and a true talent indeed.
Rory Lewis, Back to Blighty All in all, the trip was a very successful. We were welcomed by this incredible city, and we spent three wonderful weeks exploring it. I completed six successful portrait sittings that have become essential parts of my portfolio and depict my love of portraiture.
I’m looking forward to returning to LA in June. This time the focus of the trip will be to teach a workshop with my new partner, Samy’s Camera. Nonetheless I already have several plans to complete more portrait sittings.
If you are looking for a photographer, notably a specialist in portraiture photography, in Los Angeles, then give me a shout. I’m in LA several times a year and always keen to schedule new assignments.
Creativity is inspired in many ways, but certain genres lend themselves to a more perfect collaboration, and for me this is film and photography. Harking back to the old days, a Photographer’s skill was reliant on interpretation on film, and the blend between Photographic and Cinematic experience makes more sense. The two go hand in hand. Cinema inspired me to take up Photography, and the Art of Cinematography is not lost in Photography. For me, as a Photographer, this inspiration is personified in the actors who are central to the film and its success.
It can be a mysterious world being behind the lens, both in film and photography, but whereas the film has its own dedicated director, for a Portrait Photographer you are both Director and Cameraman rolled in to one. First and foremost, before anything else, the Portrait Photographer needs to be a Director of People. If you don’t direct the shoot, it will show: you can’t fulfil the brief or relay your inspiration. The Portrait is the mirror image of my thoughts and feelings, reflected back for the viewer’s interpretation. It takes a good actor to get the best out of Portrait Photography, to be able to understand direction, feel what I am feeling or trying to say with the Portraiture.
For me this makes for a wonderful experience each and every time I get to work on a sitting with an actor. Portrait Photography and Actors are a marriage made in heaven. Therefore I have made it my business to undertake sittings with many of the talented actors who themselves have inspired my career. Actors who have inspired me include: Sir Lawrence Olivier, Sir John Gielgud, Peter O’Toole…who have their roots in the greatest acting establishments such as RADA, LAMDA and the Italia Conti Academy.
This has led to me, over the last two years, dedicating nearly a third of my time to personal Portrait Projects. I am continuously striving to set up new shoots with the people who have fuelled my own inspiration. The result is some incredible experiences and incredible work representing some of the most notable portrait sittings and finding their essence in the movie clips that gave me a hunger for portraiture. I strongly believe that all Photographers should take time out to watch these films and discover the feelings they evoke.
Hoping I’m not hiding an inner-psychopath, it’s the villainous characters that seem to hold the most allure for me. When I was younger I found an ability to relate to intellectual villains with a thirst for power, often with pasts strewn with tragedy and abandonment. As a child I would become attached to these fictional characters as if they were comrades. I’d become genuinely upset if they were killed. I was the ‘odd kid’ who wasn’t automatically drawn to the hero. I think I was drawn to the charismatic and empathy-inducing villains as they had so many more layers to their characters. The dramatic effect worked on me. To be an actor playing a villain also requires a degree of complexity rarely found elsewhere, and therefore their acting is likely to have inspired both stage and screen, making them the very people I want to work with.
Accolades don’t get much greater than those poured on this screen legend. Twice nominated for an Oscar, and a recipient of every major theatrical award in the UK and US, he is exceptionally regarded as the single most acclaimed British theatrical talent of our time. I am transported back for inspiration to his portrayal of Richard III. Juxtaposed on a 1930’s timeline, the movie uses the play to evoke the fascism of that time, and the cinematography of Peter Biziou is simply awe-inspiring. McKellen as this legendary Shakespearian villain occupies this dastardly role like a poisonous spider in its web luring in its prey. This tortured villain comes to life in the embodiment of Sir Ian McKellen. Universally loathed, while loathing himself. A hunchback, he looks in the mirror in the play’s first scene and describes himself:
“Deformed, unfinished, sent before my time in to this breathing world, scarce half made up, and that so lamely and unfashionable that dogs bark at me as I halt by them.”
I invited Sir Ian to sit for me at a Portrait Session whilst he and Sir Patrick Stewart were performing Waiting for Godot in the Cort Theatre in New York. I was most definitely flabbergasted when he accepted. I was fortunate enough to travel to his home in London where I felt truly humbled to photograph this titan of the stage in his own surroundings. The little boy in me was jumping up and down with glee to see Gandalf’s sword hanging on a clothing rack like an umbrella! The enormity of the task and sense of responsibility before me hit me. I drew inspiration from his prominence as a Shakespearian performer and decided on a style of Portraiture reminiscent of the Renaissance Artist, Holbein, using lighting in such a way to preserve the intimate detail and wisdom found in his expression.
Steven Berkhoff is a well-renowned genius of the stage as well as being a successful playwright and director, continually setting the benchmark for stunning and intense performances on both the stage and screen. Known best for his villainous roles, I was inspired by his stellar performance as Hitler in 1988’s War and Remembrance. He fought off stiff competition for the role, and ultimately it was the right casting choice. He recalls: “As soon as I put on that strange little moustache, everything clicked. I look astonishingly like him and after my audition, Dan Curtis, the director, just sat there stunned. He more or less gave me the part on the spot.” (The Guardian Desperately Seeking Hitler)
The result is that Berkoff’s portrait of the psychotic and demonic Hitler is breath-taking. Viewers are shockingly mesmerised as they watch this psychopathic tale of history unfold. I was particularly struck by the intensely compelling scene where Rommel (Hardy Krüger) accuses Hitler in regard to the Concentration Camps. Berkoff inhabits the role of Hitler is a vicious and despotic response. You can’t fail but be struck by it.
As for my Portrait Sitting with Berkhoff, I arrived at Steven’s London home a little apprehensive over what to expect, this psychopathic portrayal lingering in my subconscious mixing with rumours that he was difficult to work with. His reputation as the ‘go-to bad guy’ had in all reality put the fear of God in to me! It soon became apparent that my nervousness was unfounded, and it was an absolute treat to sit and work with this seasoned veteran.
Diversely building an acting career known for playing both romantic leads and sinister villainous characters, on both stage and screen, David Warner had been top of my list for a portrait sitting for many years. Simply put, he is my favourite actor. As a child, I recall falling in love with the movie Time Bandits, in which David played ‘Evil’. Somewhat later, my father introduced me to his love of Western movies and I was introduced to The Ballad of Cable Hogue. In this, David played the character or a wandering minister named Reverend Joshua Duncan Sloan under the direction of Sam Peckinpah – known for his explicit depiction of action and violence – in this instance through the medium of a western filled with music and comedy. The role played by Warner was a Minister of his own volition through which Joshua pursues his passion ruthlessly seducing emotionally vulnerable women.
Warner himself has successfully avoided sitting for a portrait since Cecil Beaton had coaxed him in to it back in 1964 when Warner was just 24 years old. Now at 72, with his acting career firmly under his belt, I wanted to capture this more seasoned and experienced persona for my Northerners Portrait Exhibition. I was treated to a memorable sitting whereby Warner rose to the challenge in astonishing fashion, creating expressions with emotions that entrance the viewer. I was thrilled when, after the session, the National Portrait Gallery acquired one of the images for their permanent collection.
From Lovejoy to Deadwood, from a lawless saloon owner to the sexiest of beastly British mobsters, award-winning actor Ian McShane has, time and again, captured the public’s attention by playing bad guys, scoundrels and thieves. His enthusiasm for villainous parts was summed up when he ardently declared “The devil has the best tunes!” His Lancastrian voice, described as “syrup on sandpaper”, is instantly recognisable and transports you to a dastardly portrayal of whichever character he is turning his hand to now.
Personally, I most admire Ian for his role as the late 19th Century brothel-keeper and bar owner, Al Swearengen, in the HBO series Deadwood. For me this was McShane’s best and most complex role which he inhabited with utmost gusto.
With his strong Blackburn roots, McShane was a must for my Northerners Portrait Exhibition. I made contact with Ian’s agency and struck lucky as he was currently in London promoting his new film Cuban Fury. It was an amazing experience to photograph him, with quips and jibes such as “You’ll have to pay me for that!” when I jokingly asked him to give me the Al Swearengen look. Plain, simple expression was my theme for the Portrait Session, shot on black backdrops, to truly capture the texture and character of Ian McShane.
Being the self-confessed Sci-Fi nerd that I am, capturing Julian Glover in Portrait was essential. A screen-legend, we can reel off a list of roles including great names such as Star Wars; Bond Films; Indiana Jones. Since 2011 he has played the ongoing role of Grand Maester Pycelle in Game of Thrones. This is his role that fascinates me the most. Here is a complex character who appears weak and fragile, yet a true fan is treated to deleted scenes showing there is more to him that we think.
With such a strong and diverse acting background, I wanted to bring this through in my work with him. At the beginning of the session we sat down to discuss the shoot and the direction it would take. We decided to draw on his role at the time where he was starring in the Scottsboro Boys, a powerful West-End musical charting the story of a group of nine black teenagers, brought together by fate in a case which sparked the American Civil Rights movement. Adding this to his vast number of villainous roles over the year, I decided to focus on two juxtaposing looks: the plain, simple and thoughtful character portrait, and the villainous opposite side of the coin.
With Scots roots in film, television and stage, Iain Glen is an actor of domineering proportions. Best known for his roles in the Resident Evil film, and for portraying Ser Jorah Mormont in Game of Thrones, his is no stranger to our screens. Admiring his career over many years, his dark portrayal of Resident Evil’s Dr Alexander Isaacs stands out most to me. In charge of the Nemesis Program of the Umbrella Corporation, Glen plays an eminently cool, yet evil, scientist. I was thrilled that Iain accepted my invitation for a shoot and the session took place in London last month with Iain arriving, by bike, at the London Portrait Studio. As always, I had done my ‘homework’ in order to start conversation, put him at ease, and get the best from the shoot. Iain in respect conveyed his admiration of my recent portraits of Sir Patrick Stewart and wanted his images to be lit in the same style.
The shoot commenced, creating striking frames, with Iain enthusiastically posing without requiring direction towards the end. The result was that I was able to capture a selection of truly spontaneous images which really stand out as unique and capturing this essence of this prominent actor.
It’s no secret that I am a Trekkie. Therefore, as a Portrait Photographer, I was desperate to undertake a shoot with William Shatner, famous for his role as Captain Kirk. From the age of 7 this is an actor who has captured my imagination through his screen-presence.
One of his lesser-known roles was as Adam Cramer in the 1962 American film ‘The Intruder’ where Shatner played a mischievously villainous part where he powerfully and manipulatively incites townspeople to racial violence. The introductory scene to the character of Cramer has him confidently stepping off a bus: the self-assurance is innate and stays with him throughout. The audience sees a charmer and begins to be drawn in to his thrall before it becomes apparent this is a tool achieve an end, ultimately to politically affect masses and incite racial violence. This role struck me with power through Shatner’s depiction.
Therefore, when I was afforded the opportunity to work with Shatner in Los Angeles, I could barely contain my glee let alone my professional image. It took a few deep breaths on spotting him at his office, to commence the task of setting up my Portable Studio Kit. With a number of different ideas floating in my mind, I explained to Bill that I was aiming to achieve a simple expressive look. His reply “I don’t do plain” jokingly left me re-describing it as ‘emotionless’. The result was a series of wonderful expressions that capture his essence perfectly.
With a lighting change, I then directed Shatner to a more fierce look. In the majority of his roles he has been the hero, instead I wanted to capture the inner villain. Joking that playing the hero won him the girl, we had fun turning the expectations on their head, and photographing a different side.
This was a remarkable shoot for me and a wonderful experience. Having the opportunity to photograph an icon is indescribable.
Continuing in the Trekkie theme, Andrew Robinson was a strong contender for my Expressive Portraits Exhibition following his role as Garak in Deep Space Nine. For me, this desire was strengthened by his notoriety for his role at the first psychopathic killer, Scorpio, from Dirty Harry, as well as playing the part of Larry Cotton in the horror film Hellraiser.
On a personal level, the role in Dirty Harry struck me most profoundly. The film begins with one of the coolest opening sequences in any thriller. Perched on the roof of a San Francisco skyscraper, Scorpio with wild hair and piercing blue eyes takes aim as a sniper targeting a young woman in a rooftop pool. With the unforgettable theme tune standing as a backdrop, the anticipation building for the inevitable shot creates a sense of dread, and once delivered we receive a real gut-punch.
This scene played in my mind as a met Andy. I discovered he had once shared a room at LAMDA with Brian Cox who I had photographed last year. The sense was one of completeness that these two eminent figures had been captured in my Portrait Photography. The shoot with Robinson was one of ease and achievement: he is a natural in front of the camera and at ease with the non-transient nature of Portrait Photography, a complete change from his usual depiction on film. The result is that the images capture the essence of this incredible actor as a true reflection of all he is and has achieved.
A talented thespian, he has also made a solid name for himself in major Hollywood productions such as X-Men 2, Troy and Rise of the Planet of the Apes. He was also the first man to play Hannibal Lector on-screen, in the 1986 Michael Mann film, Manhunter. The role which stands out the most in my eyes was Cox’s portrait of Nazi War Criminal Goering in the TV dramatisation of The Nuremberg Trials. Cox had to learn what drives some men to carry out unspeakable deeds, and portray an unrelenting man.
I cannot begin to state the awe I felt when Brian Cox – even more so when he turned up for our London shoot on the back of a scooter. Having the star of my favourite episode of Hammer House of Horror, the Silent Scream, sitting and posing for me was such a treat – it really makes your job as a photographer that little bit easier when you work with an actor who can tell a whole story with just one look. He is such a funny and pleasant man who, at the same time, has such a commanding aura about him. I had an absolute blast working with him in what was a truly humbling experience.
When I was an 8 year old boy, Captain Jean Luc Picard was my boyhood hero. As I grew up, but retained my love of all things Star Trek, I became more and more enamoured with this legend that I not only saw in my childhood’s favourite series, but also on stage and screen, a true stalwart of British acting talent.
Looking back, two of Star Trek’s The Next Generation’s episodes particularly inspired me. The first titled ‘The Best of Both Worlds’ in which Picard is taken captive by the Borg, and the second, ‘Chain of Command’ in which Stewart stars alongside my screen idol David Warner when Picard is taken to Gul Madred for interrogation. This is an incredibly powerful episode with torture methods including sensory deprivation and bombardment, forced nakedness, stress positions, dehydration and starvation and physical pain.
Leading up to the shoot, I became somewhat star-struck. As I waited in the Neo Studios in Manhattan the fanboy inside me was jostling for prime position and ran the risk of overshadowing Rory Lewis the Photographer. Drawing on reserves I wasn’t aware I had, I managed to shake Sir Patrick’s hand and move forward on a professional basis with my inner Trekkie firmly at bay.
Before the shoot, I was aware that there are in fact very few photos of Sir Patrick where he is not in character. It therefore became my desire to capture who he was as a person. I staged a few photos to determine the best facial positions and the appropriate height for the camera, and from there the shoot commenced with ease. Drawing on his time and experience as an actor of long-standing, he effortlessly adopted the expressions and emotions we, together, thought suitable. The result was a marriage of natural kindness and fierce intensity.
Enabling me to keep the Trekkie-Rory in his box, I found Sir Patrick to be curious, warm and extremely polite. This shoot will stay with me forever, both professionally as a Portrait Photographer, but also personally to have met this stalwart of my life’s screen-based inspiration.
The Cinematic Inspiration, Full Circle:
As my career and success develops, my Cinematic Inspiration not only now draws on what I have seen, witnessed and been moved by as a young child, teen, and adult…It now also draws on the experience of meeting some of these screen legends in the flesh and working with them on a professional level. Whilst my cinematic inspiration is a work in progress, and my Portrait Sittings will always be driven and guided by this, I am also honoured that this inspiration can now grow knowing that I have captured the essence of these great giants of our screens.
I feel driven to continue drawing on my cinematic inspiration and therefore am striving to secure shoots with Anthony Hopkins, Al Pacino, Jack Nicholson, Clint Eastwood and even Arnold Schwarzenegger. I can now not only draw on my specialist knowledge of actor’s headshots, directional and photographic skills, but I can draw on my cinematic inspiration that has fuelled real productive and successful sittings. Through identifying – and capturing on film – the je ne sais quoi of McKellen, Stewart, Berkhoff and the likes, I feel confident I can portray personas with power, poise and a sense of the timeless characters screen-legends are known to play.
Captain James .T Kirk, TJ Hooker, Denny Crane, icon William Shatner sat for a portrait session in Studio City, Los Angeles last month. From the age of 7 I have watched Star Trek, and admired William Shatner as an actor. Now was my chance to meet and work with a screen Legend. Arriving at his Office in Los Angeles, I could scarcely believe my eyes, as I spotted William Shatner through the window blinds. Taking a few deep breaths, I got to work setting up my portable studio kit. With a number of ideas floating in my head, I explained to Bill, that I wanted to achieve a ‘plain simple expressive look‘ he replied jokingly ‘I don’t do plain‘, I quickly redescribed the look as ‘emotionless‘, and ‘Bill obliged me with a series of wonderful expressions.
I then changed my lighting and, directed Shatner’s expressions to a more fierce look; ‘Bill’ has always played hero’s in the majority of his work and I wanted to make him look more villainous’. Mr Shatner had some fun with these expressions, saying, I’ve played many hero’s I always get the girl.’ It was wonderful to work with, Mr Shatner. As a photographer having the opportunity to photograph an icon is indescribable. I’m looking forward to returning to Los Angeles in June for a series of portrait photography courses. All images where taken with Mamiya Leaf Credo 40 + 645df with MAMIYA SEKOR AF 110 MM F2.8 LS Lens. Photoshoot was supported by lighting and equipment from Calumet Photographic.
Thank you to all of my family, friends, clients for making 2012 such an amazing time. It has been a great year and I am excited to update everyone on the happenings of the year.
I began the year on assignment in Barcelona with Episode Fashion Management, shooting a campaign for CEO Charles McDonald. It was a wonderful opportunity to explore the sites and make new friends in the cities creative circle. I was also lucky to bring in the New Year in Barcelona celebrating in the famous Las Ramblas. I will be returning to Spain at the end of January this coming year and look forward to the photoshoots and site seeing I have planned.
Upon my return from Spain I embarked on one of the most challenging assignments of my photographic career, being commissioned by Princes Foods to shoot over 4000 items of Product Photography. It sounds simple, but the assignment required all the products to be shoot in unique compositions. The task took over a month to collate and complete, but the results looked stunning, and since the assignment I have gained a great deal of product photography clients. Now being able to offer a 24 hour turnaround in most cases.
With the completion of my Princes assignments I was able to dedicate some time to other projects being commissioned to shoot singer Nikki Belle; And with the help of Stylist Rikki Finlay and Makeup Artist Nita Malata. I planned several fashion and beauty tests in the spring to update my portfolio. Working particularly with Oxygen Models in London and shooting mainly male models as my book was lacking in this area.
Testing is a very costly business but it is essential for professional photographers to test, so new ideas and ways of working can be explored. This in turn can improve your portfolio and show to your clients your skills and talent.
2012 has been the 10th year of my professional photography career and I have enjoyed being commissioned to shoot a wide variety of projects. I continue to offer Model Portfolio & Actors Headshot Services and throughout the year, have worked with dozens of new and established actors and models to start or update their head shots & portfolios.
It has been very rewarding to help new models and actors to find their way into the industry through my photography and many have gone on to gain work through some of the UK’s top Agencies. One of the highlights of 2012 has been a shoot with Coronation Street actress Holly Quin Ankrah.
2012 was the year I decided to hold my first exhibition (Keeping Abreast) hosted by the Bluecoat Gallery in Liverpool. I invited my friends, family and clients to view my work, and opened the exhibition to the public. I really enjoyed speaking with clients and members of the public about my photography, gaining new opinions and feedback.
If you missed the exhibition you can view the highlights in the video below. The event raised £400 for Macmillan Cancer Support and I thank everyone who donated. I will be holding another exhibition in 2013 so pleased keep subscribe to my feed for more news on the event.
One of the areas I specialise in as a photographer is Hair & Beauty Photography and every year I gain a great deal of Hair Salon Commissions from Salon’s looking to update their marketing material and styling books and enter the Wella and L’Oreal competitions. This year I was delighted to work work with, Vidal Sassoon, Pierre Alexandre, Beauty Works, Love the Salon and L’Oreal to name a few. Creating some wonderful photography and Marketing Material.
When a photographer and model are on the same wavelength great things happen. This has occurs often in my hair & beauty portraiture photography. The capturing of a perfect portrait moment a split second when the model and photographer connect is a rewarding experience.
2012 is also the year I turned 30, and to mark the event, I decided to treat myself, starting with a dual city break in London and Paris. It was in Paris I proposed to my now fiancé Alexandra. We had a wonderful time in both London & Paris exploring the cities sites and taking in the Parisian Culture. You can check out my city break snaps on My Blog.
Returning from Paris, I arranged another birthday treat purchasing tickets to Star Trek London. Being a Closet Trekkie, I took the opportunity to see all the Five Captains on stage and meet actors William Shatner, David Warner, Michael Dorn, Andrew Robinson and Avery Brooks having my photos taken with several of the actors.
After pretty much a four week birthday celebration of trips and indulgence I returned to work, receiving several assignments, from photographing Pasta to Electronic Cigarettes . I was also commissioned by sports online retailer Kit Bag to shoot footballer Robbie Savage for a Festive Christmas Marketing Campaign.
Throughout 2012 I expanded my Photography School holding one day and weekend courses in areas from Portraiture to Fashion photography, and it has been wonderful to pass on skills and knowledge to both professional and amateur photographers. In 2013, I will be continuing to offer Photography Courses and One on One Tuition sessions throughout the year so please check out 2013 Timetable.