Raw Series - Image Review
Rhonda is someone who I've photographed before. We spent the whole day together. So, that helps enormously, and maybe I cheated and said I wanted her back again. (audience laughs)
And so, again, in photography, that's why we have muses, and that's why we find people that we like to shoot. And, ultimately people who become a muse is partly because they're that person who you've managed to build a relationship with that they allow you to get the best out of them, and they bring the best out of you, right. And, why one person is a muse versus another is not because they're prettier or stronger or taller, or anything, it's personality, it's because your personality, your chemistry, same way you pick a friend, and it's why certain people have become famous and others not. And, you wonder why. It's that power of becoming someone's muse. And, the whole Raw Series, for me, was about this sort of journey of emotion and of being real and being authentic, being in the moment, being vulnerable. ...
And, I did it for me, right, it was my own exploration into what I could do, what I could get out of someone, what I could discover. And, I talked earlier about being inspired: you have to inspire yourself, and whenever you do this, you do some of the best work you've ever done. And, hopefully, along the way, you inspire others, and, I have got numerous jobs since this campaign and series came out. And, it's the simplest job in the world. There's one light, background, two bits of cardboard, and you're off to the races. It wasn't about the lighting. The lighting's soft and it's pretty and it's beautiful and these are all completely raw out of the can, there's no real tweaks or anything put on this. Yes, we flipped it to black and white, to keep it simple. Yes, I was asking most of my models in the Raw Series to wear denim, 'cause it's not about necessarily about the clothes. But, it's about that kind of personality and in here, you can see, obviously as I was making Mike move and kick, and what have you, and then you look at his face after, and then he's laughing at me, and he's joking, and he's a little twinkle in his eyes. And, if I just tried to say a joke, it wouldn't be funny, probably. But, by creating scenarios that are amusing, or funny or shocking: pouring water on someone's head, you can see the visceral reaction in his body, the way his body contorts and moves, every aspect of it. And, it helps bring him to life. So, it's having this sort of series of tricks up your sleeve. You know, people ask me, and have said, and I think even today earlier, you know, how do I inspire people or whatever, and, this is a whole series of ways to do that. But, it's not inspiring others, it's inspiring yourself, and I think that's the trick. People come to set and they're standing in front of you. They're not there for you. You have to be there for them, and it's sort of turning that table. And so, arming yourself with questions, being curious, actually caring, and to push these people through various different looks and feelings, and being as sensitive as possible, really trying to feel those moments come out and breathe it. Listen to your breath. Listen to their breath. Listen to everything. Play the right kind of music. Create scenarios where it perhaps pushes the envelope a little bit or makes someone feel uncomfortable. And, you're gonna get those magic moments, you're gonna get times where you're like, "Okay, I believe this moment, I can feel it. This picture says something to me." Or, it makes me feel awkward. It's gonna make you feel something. If a picture doesn't make you feel any way, it's failed, it's just a picture. And, it's very...this application also applies to things like corporate headshots. Trust me, CEO of a business, obviously, he doesn't necessarily want to have water poured on his head, nor does he want to tell you his personal secrets, but neither does he also want to stand there and just sit in a suit with good lighting and that's probably what he's used to. And, he'll probably accept that. But, when you wanna be asked back, and, I've done, like for example, portraits of every editor, Beauty Editor, at Conde Nast, at Hurst, things like that, over the years, I've been hired to do those things. And, you know that there's 30 of them or something, and they're gonna all want the same picture and the same light and the same, it's kind of like a mill. But by finding out a little bit about each person by bringing out that little twinkle, even if they're still somewhat serious, by wondering where they want to go next in their career, wondering who they are and what brought them to that moment of becoming a CEO or becoming a Beauty Editor, why that job's fun for them, or why they want to change to another area, all these things, these thoughts that bring their eyes alive and all of a sudden, of course, the intelligence and the wisdom comes out. And, that's what we, most of us, like to look like in a corporate headshot, at least, is smart and wise, intellectual, in control. But, if they just stand there, perhaps none of those things will come out. So, you've got to try and provoke it. You were very easy to shoot, sir. Being handsome always helps, but, finding the beauty and looking for the beauty in everywhere, every angle, every place is what it's all about. And, I'll tell you one more last story of a girl called Nikki Mueller, who is very very special to me. She's a, it was a Make-a-Wish as well, and it was a very first wish I ever granted. She had had leukemia, and her arm was very scarred and withered, like this. Other side of her body was perfect. And I, she had wished to be a model for the day, and I had the honor of granting that wish. I remember, she was standing in front of me, and her arm was like this, and had a terrible scar on it. And, she sort of stood like that, and I thought, "Okay, I'm gonna take a couple of shot like this," and then I said to Nikki: "Nikki, will you turn around? Just turn around," so that she would give me her perfect side, unscarred, unflawed, and look beautiful. She looked at me, this fourteen-year-old little girl, and went, "No, I don't want to. This is why I'm here. This is my story, and I'm okay with it." And, it was one of the most powerful moments I'd ever experienced. And, it helped me, and this is about fifteen years, no, longer, fifteen years ago perhaps. Helped me understand the concept of beauty, of what real true beauty was, of photographing courage and bravery. And, that picture just rocked! Her eyes were like huge saucers of courage. And, Nikki became one of my muses for the rest of her life. Now, she was only fourteen at the time. I followed her career. She recovered from leukemia, and she went on to get a degree in Fine Art. And, she then collaborated with me, became an intern at my office, as a young adult, and she created this very interesting art. And, we did a collaboration. And, right before we were about to do this collaboration, she let me know that she had discovered that she had a brain tumor, again. And, for the very final thing that we ever did, we created this beautiful body of work with Nikki, of which we projected her art on her body, and we did an exhibition of photographs in the studio of which they all sold that night, and they were sold for about $2000 a piece, and all the money went to Make-a-Wish. And, only a few weeks later, Nikki passed away, age 23. But, the look in her eyes, and the feeling that she gave people, and the photographs and the artwork that we delivered after that fact, Nikki is never gonna be forgotten. And, she will continue to inspire. And, it was an amazingly powerful moment, and I am constantly reminded, by that bravery, and that was one of the inspirations for Raw. I'm gonna make myself cry.