Greg Heisler BTS Series: Yasser Arafat
For part two of his four-part BTS series for Profoto, photographer Gregory Heisler walks us through his Time cover of former PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat.
I really enjoyed this video. Not so much for the lighting tidbits, as it is a pretty straightforward photo in that regard. But rather because it exactly captures the vibe of photographers sitting around a table swapping stories. The interesting stuff is rarely about f/stops and shutter speeds, etc. It's more about what has to happen before you are in a position to make the photo at all. So, enjoy.
Oh, and Heisler has a book coming out, too.
Thought I'd get your attention with the book thing. More on that in a sec. First, Arafat:
Takeaways, for me:
1. Simple lighting. This one is all expression and geometry.
2. Carrying a piece of black velvet (easier, even, than white seamless) will always give you a fallback.
3. Four-by-five camera as conversation piece—and, possibly, what prompts the expression. A camera like that is a touchstone, especially when you have a subject old enough to remember this is what cameras used to look like. Bare minimum, a 4x5 establishes you as someone who takes your job seriously and commands attention. Kinda the opposite of your iPhone and Instagram.
But again, the process of getting to Arafat is the jewel here. I have always loved listening to these kinds of stories from people like Heisler, Dave Burnett, Joe McNally, Scotty Applewhite and others.
One of my favorites: Dave Burnett was assigned to photograph Reagan and Gorbachev's first summit meeting in 1985 during the Cold War. Noticing that their chairs were way too far apart for a good picture in the upcoming photo op, Burnett told his handler that he had to go up on stage to "check the lighting" with his meter.
While up there, when no one was looking he pushed the chairs much closer together. Are you freaking kidding me. Can you believe that in the context of how tightly things like this are choreographed today?
Made for a better photo, though, dontcha think?
Hope I am remembering this right, Dave. Lemme know if not. Looking forward to more tales like this when both these guys are hanging out at the rooftop Vista Bar in Dubai next month.
So, Heisler's Got a Book Coming Out...
It's entitled, Gregory Heisler | 50 Portraits | Stories and Techniques from Behind the Photographs, and due in October. I have only been waiting for this book for the last, oh, twenty years or so. No biggie. And Amazon doesn't even have the cover photo up (because it hasn't been chosen yet) but I just pre-ordered anyway. Because, twenty years.
I am very proud to have had a tiny part in this book finally happening. And even more so of having helped to talk Greg into putting the "AND TECHNIQUES" part into the book.
He jokingly refers to it as the "moron" section in the back, as in, "For more on the making of this picture, yada yada…"
Well, from this moron, THANK YOU FOR THE MORON SECTION. I can't wait for mine to be pre-shipped in time to arrive at my door on the actual day of publication.
Lastly, a reminder: If you are in the US, don't forget to enter to win the Profoto D1 Air kit being given away as a promotion for this new Heisler video series. Because, why not?