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Image of the Week

20090115_011 for web

Pierre van Heerden, at the studio, 15 Jan 2009.

I only got around to working on this image this week, after it's been sitting in a folder, for 4 months. Pierre is a well-known face on stage in South Africa (Cats, Chicago among various other musicals and various plays), and commercials (Toyota, Absa, breakfast cereals, Volkswagen, and whatnot).

I met Pierre through family about 9 years ago, while he was a drama student in Cape Town and selling braai systems on the side. Already he was an entertaining fellow, just having coffee with him turned out to be an interesting affair. So, for quite some time now I've been toying with the idea of doing a brief portrait shoot with him at the studio, as part of my continuing portrait project "Wax Lyrical/Profiler", started in 2001. (Watch my website - the whole collection will be going live soon!). I gave him a ring one day in January, and he just happened to be in Cape Town, for a show, and willing to pop in. He resides in Gauteng these days.

The great thing about working with actors in stills are their amazing ability to take direction, and "become" whatever they need to be for the shot. I simply shot off words like "paranoid", "happy", "pleasantly surprised", "neurotic", etc, and he would simply comply with an accompanying expression. Absolute magic for a photographer who's used to working with "I really hate having my picture taken"-people. Models tend to only be able to respond with looking good in requested ways. They're not good at looking genuinely paranoid. A male model doing a "neurotic" look, will undoubtedly be showing off his immaculate brow and smooth skin, while having a lifted eyebrow and pouty expression. A good actor looks freakin' neurotic when asked to.

I also wanted to go really hard with the lights, opting for 2 bare flashes, at acute angles for drama, and a dark background of 2 flat surfaces put together to create an Irving Penn "corner" set-up. My lighting was just way harder than Irving Penn.

After about 15 minutes of shooting, and close on an hour of chatting, I came away with a collection of images I can work with, explore and be proud of, after all.

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So a number of years back I did a shoot of Pierre van Heerden, South African actor, musical performer, playwright and comedian, at my old studio. It was just for fun, really. I was exploring some portraiture ideas, for a project I was considering at the time. We had a great time shooting these, exploring some cool ideas as we spent the morning talking rubbish, laughing and drinking coffee.

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