21 May 2009

NYC Exhibit Opening!

J Henry Fair's Industrial Scars will be on exhibit at Gray Krauss, 207 W 25th St, Suite 600, New York City
Reception: Thursday, May 28th 6:00 to 8:00 pm (Thereafter by appointment)
More Information: 212.674.6599 or khwb.photog@gmail.com

Academy of Arts and Letters


Among my vocations is that of portraitist.

Making a good portrait is a combination of setup, lighting, camera angle, but mostly the key is the interaction with the subject. Today my job is to shoot the 123 most esteemed artists and writers in the USA… all at once. The only time they are ever all together is at the annual awards event, and then only at the moment they are all on the stage for the awards. Not only are these artists and writers all onstage waiting for the show to go on, the audience has assembled in seats, waiting as well. So, I am sitting, waiting for all of the old artists (who are coming from lunch - with drinks!) to get in their seats. I see a few friends down on the stage, and run down to say hello.

We had to light this shoot from the balcony, 100 feet from the stage, to illuminate everyone evenly. Typically, the average photographer’s lights would light up the entire auditorium. Fortunately, years ago, I had disemboweled a tremendous old Fresnel movie light and custom fit a flash head inside. This allows the light to be focused and projected, and thus light the faces on the stage at that great distance, with enough light to shoot with great detail. This type of job is all about preparation, so we tested all the gear in the week before and trucked it up to the hall early this morning. Since we had everything tested beforehand (and blew up one of my power packs in the process), setup was fairly fast. Then it was just a matter of balancing the light and verifying the even illumination. Suddenly, I am beckoned from the stage. My moment is here.

How do you engage the nation’s preeminent intellectuals?

I told them to close their eyes, then to shift their weight, then do something different with their hands, then told Chuck Close not to cover his mouth with his hands. I announced that my goal was to get each of them with their eyes open in at least one of the shots.

All told, I probably took a total of ten shots, frighteningly few for a photographer. Inevitably, with so many subjects, there is no possibility that there will be a shot with all eyes open, so there will be post-production. But, more than once they were all laughing at me, and I am pleased that it shows in the images.