The Daily Edit- Backstage Magazine: Stephanie Diani

- - The Daily Edit

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Backstage

Creative Director: Robert Wilson
Art Director: William Scalia
Photographer: Stephanie Diani

Heidi: How often do you work with Backstage?
Stephanie: The creative director of Backstage, Rob Wilson, and I have worked together on a number of shoots in the last few months and he emailed me with several possible opportunities for cover projects in early January. Gillian’s cover was set for my first free day so we confirmed the shoot date a week or two before talking about concepts.
Rob is awesome in that he encourages me to do my thing, but gives me enough direction that I have a starting point or a vibe for the story. I will generally browse through my file of “I want to shoot this” images and send him a half dozen ideas and we’ll narrow it down from there.
I was pleased that of the three images I liked most, two were selected for print. Here’s the outtake:
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What sort of art direction did you get?
The first direction he suggested was bright and poppy so, after researching Gillian a bit and getting an idea of how she might photograph best, I sent him some high key portraits samples with bright wardrobe and soft light; a few were shot against vintage-y colorful patterned wallpaper. In all of the lookbook images, however, wardrobe played a vital role and, as there wasn’t budget for a stylist, he suggested we change direction and go for a simple George Hurrell/old Hollywood style that would be more dependent upon lighting and hair and makeup.
I’m a fan of noir films, and I’d been wanting to shoot something moody with one or two lights and a fresnel spot, so it was an easy yes for me. We traded photographs of Judy Garland, Katharine Hepburn and Marlene Dietrich and he ironed out the when and where (the Backstage magazine studio, aka conference room) with Ms. Jacob’s agent and publicist.

 

Did you know you were only going to have 10 minutes?
The week of the shoot Rob asked how long I’d need and if I could get some variations in twenty to thirty minutes. [ it was ten minutes for the cover, ten minutes for a second option.] I said sure no problem, but asked if I could arrive two hours ahead to set up in order to be totally ready for her. 
 
What sort of prep did you do and what did you learn from this job?
The night before the photoshoot I picked up a Profoto fresnel head and a roller stand at Samy’s and set it all up in the living room of our apartment to run some tests. 
 
Lesson #1: It’s difficult to focus a fresnel spotlight on yourself while also shooting the tests because it’s such a precise light source. 
Lesson #2: It’s not just the fresnel that creates narrow shafts of light, it’s also a matter of flagging the hell out of a set. Even at its most focused, with the attached barn doors shut pretty tight, the spread of light was greater than what I wanted.
The test session, though I was wetly glowing from running back and forth between the camera, the fresnel and the subject’s chair, was invaluable and my assistant and I had everything set up in under an hour the next day. Rob and I had discussed using the images in black and white, but I decided to bring the mocha seamless because if they decided to use the shot in color it would provide a neutral but warm-toned palette for her fair skin.
How did you approach the subject, I’d imagine it was a greet and then right down to business with little time to settle in with talent.
She arrived right on time with her publicist, and hair and make up artists, pretty much camera-ready. We decided on bare arms and shoulders because the wardrobe she was wearing was a tad perkier than the look of the shot. She was prepared and focused and immediately channeled old Hollywood.
I was shooting tethered so Rob and Gillian’s people could get a sense of what we were getting, and my assistant tweaked the spot and held a reflector as needed. Halfway through I asked her to lounge back onto a chaise to give Rob a similar but slightly different second option. He asked to see everything afterwards, and ended up using three shots in the article, one in black and white. He also designed the graphics for the cover and the article.
Please enjoy the story here

Heidi Volpe

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