I have been told by several people lately that I should take my portrait of Jimmy Cliff out of my portfolio. His portrait is one of my favorite ones, because I am so excited about what he gave me in the extremely brief time we had together. Just look at his eyes in the Photograph where he his pointing his fingers like two guns.
Jimmy Cliff was in town for a festival, and was holding a press junket for the occasion. He he was on stage for 30 minutes where he sang some of his greatest hits and answered some questions. After this he was shuttled to another building where he gave 10 minute interviews with a select few Journalists. I was assigned to shoot his interview with a journalist from a very large Swiss Newspaper. She stressed that we should not take up more than the allotted 10 minutes, and that I should hurry up and try to get a quick portrait of him as well.
After 9 minutes the interview was finished, and I had to somehow get a meaningful Photograph of an artist who's music I loved. How could I do him justice?
the key of getting through a situation like this is to stay grounded and not get nervous. Two qualities not present in my DNA, but I manage to fake it sometimes.
I had a 50mm 1.4 on my D700, got up close and shoot with available light. There was a a milk glass window to my right that I was using as my key light. After about 4 frames (which is much to little in my opinion) I took him to a stairwell about two meters away. I ended up standing on two stairs to get enough room and went wide with my 24-70 2.8 and speed light hand held close to the lens to minimize shadows. There was a window behind him with sunlight shining in and out intermittently, which is a nightmare if you have little to no time. I asked him if he remembered the photograph form his movie The Harder They Come The Harder They Fall, where his character, Ivan Martin, was holding two revolvers. His eyes light up and he started to jump in 360 degree circles holding his hands as guns. I was not ready, and the shots I took were either out of focus or he was out of frame. I asked him to do it again when I told him I was ready, and he obliged. With the energy of a gleeful child he jumped and spun, doing his best revolver-hands.
What a Gentleman!
This experience showed me how valuable doing your research is. While everyone wanted to ask him about still smoking pot and Bob Marley, I asked him about a time in his his youth. It must have been a wonderful time of his life when he was young and just breaking through.
I still love the image of him with his pistols and grin. Sometimes expression trumps technique and composition. I took it out of my portfolio for now, but will leave it in my Blog.