One of the first things I ask for when a photo editor reaches out to me for a magazine photo assignment is the article or story that the photo will be accompanying. This helps me learn about their subject and what their story angle might be. That way I can start thinking of visual ideas that will help support the person and the story.
Most of the time I am told that is not available, either because it hasn’t been written yet or it’s still in the editing phase. Fortunately, such was not the case when the photo editor from Lawdragon Magazine reached out to me the other week for a portrait assignment. She had found me on Wonderful Machine and liked my work. When I asked her if they had a story for the subject available, she said it was still being edited and rough but that she would be happy to share it.
The story was a Q&A article with a lawyer based in Denver. In the piece she talked about how similar her work as an attorney is to her prior career as an actress. She spent 20 years on stage and in Hollywood. Bam!
My first idea was shooting her in a theater. Lawdragon Magazine is a publication that serves the legal community and like most industry journals, they operate on small budgets. This meant asking for additional funds to rent a theater space for a couple hours was probably not going to be possible. So I started calling around to theaters I knew of in Denver asking for favors, including one where a friend of mine performs. They were down, but had recently disposed of their red theatrical curtain. Drat! That was a key element that I couldn’t go without.
I thought of a second idea, inspired by some images I have seen Annie Leibovitz do with Hollywood stars. I called a lighting shop in Denver that I have rented equipment from before. I asked if he had any big Hollywood looking lights I could rent for a couple hours and use in their parking lot. Sure enough, he had the perfect light and was kind of enough to let me let me borrow it free of charge.
The only hitch is there was no way to power it outside. Instead, I shot a few frames of the light powered on indoors with the intention to splice in of those images on the light later using Photoshop.
I then wheeled the light out to the parking lot, which I thought could pass as a Hollywood back-lot looking space. The earliest the subject could arrive was 2pm. Storms were forecast for that afternoon. To add to the time crunch, another tenant in the building told me several semis would be arriving and needing to park in the lot at any moment. Lovely.
I set up fast and shot fast. Got my last frame in the can just as the wind picked up and was on the verge of knocking over a light. Packed up my gear, returned the light, and get outta there before I ever saw a semi.
I love how the image turned out and I love projects where I can get more information to really get creative. I’m told this will be printed full-page. Can’t wait to see it!