Each time it is a surprise and an opportunity to learn.
And sometimes to laugh.
One of the most fascinating aspects of being a photographer is making portraits of people.
This is an ultimate confrontation and in this situation often the cores of the personalities become clear.
Recently it became possible to reflect on two persons portrayed in the last year.
Jennifer Siegal in Los Angeles, USA in August 2007 and Nandita Das in Mumbai, India in March 2008.
Ms. Siegal, a well-known designer, had been selected by the magazine LUMEN to be part of a story about alternative energy in California.
She had to be photographed in her work.
The author of the story of the LUMEN publication, New York journalist Adam Spangler from Vanity Fair, had made contact with Ms. Siegal and arranged the shooting.
However, Ms. Siegal had some conditions.
Before each shooting a make up artist and a hairdresser had to come in to fix her up.
This would take two hours, according to Ms. Siegal, and the magazine had to pay for it.
600 $ for the two of them per hour.
It may not surprise any fervent and loyal blog reader that not only the editors of LUMEN were impressed by these conditions but that they also rejected them out of hand.
Eventually a compromise was reached.
Before each shooting the hairdresser would come for one hour.
To simplify matters, and not have the hairdresser in the way, the photographer instructed Ms. Siegal to have everything done before the shooting would start.
But when arriving in Ms. Siegal’s office the hairdresser was still there with her impressive equipment, tools, tricks and tingles.
One of the worst mistakes ever in the career of this hard working photographer occurred then and there.
Looking at Ms. Siegal it was noticed that not much had been done yet about her hair and she was asked in an agitated way when for God’s sake the hairdresser would start her job.
Coolly and slightly insulted Ms. Siegal replied that in fact her hair was actually ready.
The disorganised, upheavaled and disrupted hair was the result of 2 hours of precise sculpturing of the champion hairdresser who turned out to be Ms. Siegals’ close friend.
Another issue was the fact that Ms. Siegal had put on for the occasion a cocktail dress.
Clothes one would wear when going to an elegant party.
While the shooting was to be of a hard working designer in her workplace.
Obviously it was very important to Ms. Siegal how she looked in the pictures.
That people would be impressed by her physical beauty and her way of dressing.
This is easy to understand.
Designers are operating in a competitive business.
Good looks are helpful.
If a well-designed house is coming from an elegant and attractive designer, extra incentives are carried into the battle for possible new assignments.
This way of working was becoming really clear when it was later revealed that two of the most prominent houses in Los Angeles Ms. Siegal had designed and had been build belong to two of her former boyfriends.
This was August 2007 and it is only part of the many experiences with Jennifer Siegal.
Now fast-forward to March 2008.
Walking in the streets of the neighbourhood called Juhu in Mumbai, India one evening, the team member Marjolein van Veen of the project “The most beautiful people in the world” accompanied by journalist Ms. Lhatta of the magazine Marie Claire, spotted in the street the famous film actress Nandita Das.
Ms. Das was standing there with a male friend eating pasta from a carton plate she had bought from a stall in the street.
One would expect a film star to eat in fancy restaurants but not so Ms. Das.
Senior team member Marjolein van Veen approached Ms. Das to explain her the project “The most beautiful people in the world”.
They had a long conversation and Ms. Das promised to visit the website of the project to learn more about it.
The next day was a phone conversation and Ms. Das agreed to participate in the project and invited the team to her home.
The shooting with Ms. Das could not have been more different than the experience with Ms. Siegal.
While Ms. Siegal surrounded herself with clouds of pretension and focus on appearance, Ms. Das was the simplicity herself.
She was cordial, open, interested and very professional.
Dressed in a most simple but beautiful dress.
No hairdressers around.
No make up artists.
In fact, Ms. Das wore no make up whatsoever and had her hair in a natural way.
The shooting of Ms. Das was a great pleasure because she knows how to look convincing in a picture.
It was not about trying to look beautiful or attractive, as was the case with Ms. Siegal.
It was about looking as who you are.
Simple, modest, honest, open, without any tralala.
As a photographer these situations are experienced.
And the thing is that the photographer should never fall into the pit of becoming judgemental.
It is a job and no matter how the people are, the best pictures possible need to be made.
This is why it was a privilege and a joy to meet and share moments with Jennifer Siegal.
And a privilege to meet and share moments with Nandita Das.
Because, is Jennifer Siegal, Nandita Das, the photographer and all loyal and fervent blog readers, not simply trying to make the best of their lives?
Jennifer Siegal, designer
Nandita Das, actress.
To learn more about Jennifer Siegal, click on:
To learn more about Nandita Das, click on: