Flexibility in Celebrity Photography

Posted by Jerry Avenaim on November 14, 2008 – 1:54 am
Angela Bassett Photographed for Detour Magazine by Jerry Avenaim

Angela Bassett Photographed for Detour Magazine by Jerry Avenaim

Celebrity photographers have only a fraction of the time movie directors get to capture the mood or look they’re after. It is the task of the celebrity photographer to artfully bring out the vulnerability and humanity of the stars they are photographing. The tools of the trade: Flexibility, consistency, technical mastery, and the ability to perform under pressure to get that iconic image.

As artists, we have to take chances to make memorable images, not everything goes the way you originally envisioned it and that’s a beautiful part of the creative process. Going into every celebrity photo shoot, I know my ideas and intention are just a blueprint for the creative process. The key to a successful photo shoot with any celebrity or subject is to be malleable to situation and circumstance. This is the time we get the gifts that did not intend on. I try to set an easy, relaxed atmosphere for celebrities and their publicists. It’s important to have a sense of humor and be truly engaging with the person I’m photographing. To make people laugh with an impersonation or story almost always puts them at ease. But at the end of the day, trust is what’s paramount in photographing celebrities.

For example, in my photo session with Angela Bassett; we were almost finished shooting when I got the idea to pour milk over her. Things moved quickly and smoothly the entire shoot, so towards the end I offered the idea. To my surprise, she “said sure why not.” Then I though, how are we going to do this? I had my assistant go to the studio kitchen and get all the milk, a pan, and a broom handle. With the pan taped to the handle, he stood over Angela on a 12-foot ladder waiting for my cue. I told her to scream when the milk came pouring down. It wasn’t until the milk lay still, with a few drops flowing down her face, that I felt this peace about the image we had created.

Jerry Avenaim

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2 Responds so far- Add one»

  1. 1. Deb Fujiwara Said:

    I’m absolutely in love with and in awe of your celebrity portraits. You have a real gift for capturing the essence of your subjects and making them appear beautiful in a larger than life sort of way, even when you’re photographing them in a non-traditional manner such as you’ve done here.

    This reminds me in a sense of your Robert Blake shoot, where you make someone appear quite striking through use of the unusual.


  2. 2. Jason Christopher Said:

    This is awesome ! The power of chance is really something we all need to keep our eyes open for.
    Great job Jerry !


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