Creating a portrait of Alfred Hitchcock
Alright, so this is, for me, one of the most important shots that I've done because it really changed my career at that point. So this is a very old shot. This is from 1973, and I had just been a photographer really for a couple of years. One day I was in my little studio in Los Angeles, and the phone rang, and it was the head of Harper's Bazaar Magazine. At that time, I wasn't working for any magazines, so I was very, very excited that Harper's Bazaar Magazine was calling me. And they asked have you ever photographed anybody famous? And I said yeah, one or two. Of course, I hadn't photographed anybody famous. And they said well, we'd like you to photograph somebody a week from now, and we'll call you tomorrow and let you know who it is. So I said okay, that's great. So the next day they called, and they let me know it was Alfred Hitchcock. Now, I was just out of film school, so the fact that Alfred Hitchcock was going to be photographed by myself was, of course, overwhe...
lming, and I was very excited about it. They explained the concept that Alfred Hitchcock was a gourmet cook. He loved cooking. It was his favorite pastime. And he was gonna give them a recipe for goose for the Christmas issue, and they needed me to photograph him as, you know, as the illustration for the, basically for the article and recipe. So they said we would like him to hold a plate with a cooked goose on it, and I thought okay, that's not a problem. And I actually thought about it overnight. Now, this was a major change here for me because I think Alfred Hitchcock holding the plate with a cooked goose, I was a little bit nervous that he might look like a maître d' or just it might be a little bit, how could I make it more fun? You know, how can I conceptualize this a little bit? How can I prepare for the shooting? And I then called him back the next day, and I said I don't mind doing the cooked goose, but I think it might be better if he's holding the plucked goose by the neck like he strangled it, and I'll put some Christmas decorations around the goose's neck, and it seems to me a little bit more Hitchcock. So the creative director said let me get back to you. He called back in half an hour later and said the editor in chief loves it, and you don't need to do the plate, and they think it's more fun. And, of course, it is more fun. And I was lucky enough to have Hitchcock, you know, in front of me. He could tell that I was terrified and nervous and so on, and he made the shooting a pleasure. And he's actually a bit of a ham actor, and he just did lots of funny things with the goose. He pretended to cry. He was upset that he strangled the goose. And he was really fabulous to photograph. So the lighting in this is very, very simple. I used to shoot just through an umbrella with a strobe head, and I set it up with two lights in the background, so the background was pure white and a simple umbrella. So back then, I knew a little bit about lighting but not a lot, so the lighting in this is very, very simple. When I finished photographing him, he said to me he said you look like you could do with a nice cup of tea, so he ordered his secretary to get a pot of tea, and I sat there in his office having afternoon tea. It was almost like with shortbread biscuits with Alfred Hitchcock chatting with him about movies and so on. So the shooting really was magical in two ways. I got a half decent shot, and I was able to sit and talk with Alfred Hitchcock. (soft music)