You can also read more about it here on the Stockland Martel blog: Interview: What does it take to photograph “Iconoclasts”? « Stockland Martel
This really was a once in a lifetime chance for me to do what I love to do, which is document everyday life, but in this case with leading cultural figures, some of whom like Dr. Jane Goodall, with whom we spent a week in the Congo along with the marvelous Charlize Theron, have dramatically impacted the world and how we think. I was essentially embedded with the documentary film crew in order to shoot a photo essay of the creation of each show, which features an interplay and dialog between two fascinating cultural figures. I shot stills while they shot cinema verite and also was asked to shoot portraits for the Sundance ad campaign (now in Vanity Fair), busides, web promotion, etc.
My killer first assistant Demetri Fordham (and when shooting locally also with my insanely good digital tech Quinton Jones) travelled to Australia to shoot Cate Blanchett with environmentalist Tim Flannery at Cate’s theater company and with a Komodo dragon, to the Congo to shoot Jane Goodall with Charlize Theron at Jane’s chimpanzee research station, in New York we shot Hugh Jackman with restauranteur Jean-Georges boxing and cooking together, to the Bahamas to shoot Lenny Kravitz with director Lee Daniels where Lenny was recording his upcoming new album, and to Chicago to shoot director Ron Howard with Phoenix Suns basketball star Steve Nash where Ron was shooting a new movie. The last show was shot most recently in NY with painter Chuck Close and magician David Blaine where we visited Chuck’s Soho studio and David’s inspiration Houdini, at Houdini’s grave in Queens.
What was so cool for me was having shot many, many artists, actors, musicians over the years, but particularly in my early photojournalist days in the 1980’s, there was a wonderful, easy atmosphere and complete access. Back in the day, you rarely had publicists controlling the shoots, unlike now where there is intense control. You also usually had much more time to spend with people in the early 80’s. Of course there were publicists but rarely did one ask what lens you were planning to use or approve your idea before you shot, and it was very rare that anyone asked to approve the work before publication. You could sometimes get days or a week with someone and document their daily life, building a rapport and from which would come candid moments as well as a meaningful portrait. The magazine might only want and need that portrait but you were given time to get it in an organic way that involved a lot of trust on both sides. Now with the relentless onslaught of paparazzi and general nasty coverage of personalities there has come a natural desire by the artists to control their image.
This makes sense but it leads to an impossible situation in terms of getting natural, documentary images. There has been a breakdown of trust. The publicists are just doing their jobs, even if with someone they trust their efforts actually can work against the best interests of their clients in terms of getting images that really stand out and show their clients in ways that resonate with their public. But I can’t blame them. And for Iconoclasts, a rare truce is invoked, honest interplay between the personalities on the show ensues and the results are fascinating. Anyway, this shoot was a rare breathing space for me to photograph some really innovative, creative people doing amazing work in a truly intimate way. Just a sheer joy for me and I thank Radical and Sundance and the Iconoclasts themselves of course for the stunning opportunity.