As much as I like getting lost in the landscape, I love getting lost in actors. They are, hands down, the most compelling class of people to photograph. Always interesting, always engaged, always aware that the presence of a camera makes every moment a performance. Even if it is, as the Brando quote implies, “Just because they say ‘Action’ doesn’t mean you have to do anything”. I am happy to work off the surface of the actor at rest, if that is what they want their performance to be. The surface of a great actor is alive, vibrating, if only through the eyes.
I believe the still portrait--the one frame-at-a-time portrait--is the vessel of memory. When I imagine actors (without looking at their films or photographs) I see portraits made by still photographers. That is how I remember them. Example: When I want to conjure up Elizabeth Taylor, I don’t think of any of her films, I see Syd Avery’s snapshot of her, on set, a private moment as she lifts her luscious face to receive the sun. The photograph is without art direction or conceit; it is real and utterly convincing. She really is that beautiful.
Each opportunity to photograph an actor is a privilege, one that I cherish. I know that I might be the vehicle to make one of those Syd Avery pictures, a combination of simply being there and being intuitive enough to trip the shutter without judging. The truly extra-ordinary photographs are like that, gifts.