Looking back on over 25 years in the photo business, and still counting, my memories often flip between thousands of captured moments in black and white and then back to the same strange world in color. For over a decade of my career I was living and working in Los Angeles, California, taking photos of celebrities and most often on the red carpet.
From that description you might think I was one of the paparazzi, those obnoxious stalkers of famous people photos. I may have stood side by side with some of the paparazzi during my time on the red carpet, but I was hunting for a very different type of image.
It started back in March 1992 when I was hired as a runway photographer for that years Academy Awards. As someone who enjoys shooting people, I have always valued the subtleties of any shoot. To get the best results, you must pay attention to all the details; the styling of clothes and hair, the make up, the weather and angles of light wherever they are coming from and the various facial expressions of the subject.
When hunting for perfect famous people photos, you may take thousands of photos during an event and from all those exposures you are very lucky to get one or two good shots. It is very rare that all these puzzle pieces come together in one click. This is probably why most paparazzi shoot for quantity, not quality.
My official job on that sunny day back in March (and for the next 10 years) was to shoot the standard posed paparazzi style famous people photos. My agency wanted standing, smiling at the camera type shots ready to be splashed on the tabloids all over the world the next day. It took me only a few seconds to realize that I would be missing a huge opportunity if I limited photos to such a narrow view.
As I stood shoulder to shoulder with the other photographers on the world’s most famous 60 yards of carpet watching the waves of celebrity pass only a few feet in front of me, I played a dual role. I was one cameraman for my agency snapping the standard famous people photos and with my second camera and mini telephoto lens, I shot for my personal collection, mostly in black and white.
For as many years as I covered the Academy Awards, there is really nothing that can prepare you for such an event. Aside from the time pressures and all the technical maneuvers this sort of shoot requires, the near circus atmosphere all around you creates an unusual work zone.
The event attracts hundreds of photographers lined up side by side with TV crews, reporters and producers all dressed in black tie and evening gowns. There are long lines of parking attendants in red uniforms, huge throngs of fans screaming to be heard by their favorite star and a dozen helicopters circling endlessly like bees round a hive. In less than two hours over a thousand limousines drop off celebrity after celebrity with each stars arrival pushing that invisible “on” button for the media machine setting off a shock and awe of flashes and activity.
And deep within the madness that is The Oscars, somewhere behind all the smiles, bright lights and endless interviews are those magic moments waiting to be captured. With my old 35 mm SLR and mini telephoto lens, I waited for the perfect break in the storm that is the red carpet. In an odd way, as those famous faces crossed my path; the mix of screen legends, super models, music icons, foreign directors and action heroes, my mind became still. My senses all joined together in my virtual hunt for those perfect famous people photos and my work took on a very meditative quality.
These types of photos are few and far between, but they tell a story that the average celebrity shot just can not. With a lot of care and patience and a little luck, a photo can open a doorway into the mystery that we all love to create around our celebrities. As any movie fan can tell you, a smiling head shot is fine, but famous people photos that cut through the facade, even a little bit, are worth their weight in gold. These are the images that raise our awareness of the individual as well as the art form.
I no longer live in Los Angeles and no longer shoot the annual event known around the world as The Oscars. My photography muse has taken me into other aspects of the medium, but whenever I want to revisit those magical afternoons I can simply pull out my special book, my famous people photos, the ones I carefully hunted down oh so long ago and am still proud of to this day.
Source by Mark Sierra