Clickenzee to Embiggen!
The story is about prominent Philadelphia Black Republicans Thermon Spence, Lewis Harris Jr, and Robert Allen Mansfield and the assignment was for a basic power portrait, which is typically the treatment that CEO's & head honcho's get, usually taken from a low angle, lots of folded arms -- probably the most famous example is Alberto Korda's photo of Che Guevara -- although it wasn't set up (I think it was actually a snapshot taken at a rally) it's got all the elements of making the Cuban guerrilla look like a total badass.
One of my favorites is of Gerald Hines by photographer Helmut Newton:
Clickenzee to see Newton's awesomeness larger
This is kind of the absolute top end of the power portrait.
Anyway, Stephen had talked about walking to Rittenhouse square and shooting outside which was fine with me. I figured I could back light them against the sun and if it was windy, just use two bare flashes which I could set up without needing assistants to hold them (having two flashes with umbrellas in the wind means you need either two people or two 25 pound bags of lead shot (they actually sell these at places like B&H Photo but you still need two assistants to carry them, so it ends up being pointless I think.) I figured outside would be good because they'd probably have fancy topcoats and fancy topcoats add to the fancy.
I was delighted to arrive and meet them. Thermon Spence is an ex Marine and Robert Allen Mansfield is a decorated war veteran from Iraq, and Lewis Harris looks like a movie star, they looked great.
We walked out to Rittenhouse and I talked to Robert Mansfield about Iraq an the IED that injured him and about fashion (all three of them were wearing cufflinks which is a particular joy of mine).
The setup was really quick, I knew I wanted the sun directly behind them so location was largely dictated by that, two flashes on stands left and right -- I tried shooting this cover again with the Panasonic GX1 and the 20mm lens as part of the "can I use this instead of my DSLR" experiment and was less enthused about it this time. The flash sync on the GX1 is 1/160th of a second instead of the d800's 250th which made it difficult to balance the flash with the sun. Going into a situation like this you basically have a camera with one setting: fastest shutter speed, lowest iso, smallest f-stop and you get what you get. We created quite a ruckus in the park -- lights, cameras, and crowds create a lot of interest and everybody was sure they knew who these guys were but couldn't quite remember (they've all run for political office, so you've seen them on TV) and I was continually peppered with "Yo! Yo! Who are those guys???" which is made all the more exciting when you say "It's top sekret. Check out the cover of the Philadelphia Weekly next Wednesday." The pose was relatively simple too, Lewis Harris Jr is a little bit shorter than Robert Mansfield and Thermon spence, so I put him in the front and leaned down until all their heads lined up.
Philly Weekly features writer Randy LoBasso, who did the article, shot some behind the scenes video for which I'm very grateful, you can watch it here on the Youtubes.
We went back to the Weekly offices and I did some quick portraits as a backup or in case they wanted anything in the interior and shot a couple photos of them just having a discussion and went on my merry way. You can read Randy's article here.
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