Photographing Frank Woodley- A Thousand Words: Simon Schluter
Sillitoe: Tell us about photographing comedian Frank Woodley.
Schluter: The brief was ridiculously brief. It’s a date, an address and a name. It was publicity for his show, called Optimism. For a couple of days before the shoot it had been bucketing with rain, everywhere was wet.”
Sillitoe: What sort of a conversation do you have with your subject where they respond by saying ‘Yes I’ll sit in a puddle for you’?
Schluter: I think the first thing is trust. I’d photographed Frank before and he liked those pictures. So your talent is comfortable that you’re not going to make them look stupid, and you’re both after the same thing.
In order for them to work most pictures do have to have a vague grounding in logic. The show Optimism is about pessimism really, it’s all wrapped up in irony. So the idea I had was to photograph him totally at rock-bottom, he’s fallen over in a puddle wearing a suit; he’s cold and miserable. There’s an obvious irony in having a show called Optimism and being photographed at rock-bottom. With the title ‘optimism’ above it (on the newspaper page), I thought that could work. Text often runs over the photo, and that does slightly change the way you shoot, and you’ve got to leave space above it.
Sillitoe: How did Woodley react to your idea?
Schluter: With Frank it made a lot of sense. It makes sense to an artist if you can explain the symbolism. To both of us it was like, hmmm, that’s obvious. He’s the sort of bloke who doesn’t mind trashing an item of clothing for the sake of a good shot. Photographing creative types is my passion, because you don’t have to explain a lot. He was more than happy to have his suit dry-cleaned, I think he actually sent us the bill (sly smile).
Sillitoe: How did the shoot proceed?
Schluter: I suggested Frank take a warm shower first. So he put his suit on and jumped in the shower at home and got totally soaked. I called him when I’d found a deep-enough puddle (you need a good bit of depth, and a good bleary backdrop). Then he walked down to the shoot location, which was just at the end of his street. I was actually colder that he was. He gently lowered himself into the frigidly murky muddy water of the puddle at the end of the street, then you get your lighting right and go ka-ping.
Sillitoe: Was it hard to think of lighting with such a subject?
Schluter: Well there’s a lot happening, not the least of which is the fact that it’s raining. I’m juggling an umbrella with one hand, I’ve got plastic bags over the lights, and sand bags to stop stuff blowing over. Lighting was just a simple soft-box, nothing to it. It’s a dark suit and because it’s quite wet you get a bit of sheen, you have to really punch light into it to get any detail.
No one was walking the streets when it was bucketing with rain. To add insult to injury, poor old Frank would get a bit of a splatter as the occasional car would go by. The shoot was five or ten minutes. With half-an-hour prep and half-an-hour pack up.
Sillitoe: What did you ask Woodley to do in the puddle?
Schluter: That’s when it’s over to him, it’s what he does. He can just go through the motions. You do have to be wary that your subject doesn’t go into their formulaic poses. You don’t want your picture to look like everybody else’s. But the setting and the scenario did lend itself to certain expressions that don’t have to be communicated (between photographer and subject).
Read the whole Article@The Age- http://tinyurl.com/3jbsmeo