New Interview
Martin Schoeller

Martin Schoeller: “I don’t think you can capture a soul”

July 1, 2020
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Mr. Schoeller, what does honesty look like in portrait photography?

It starts with the facial expression that we associate with honesty. Obviously fake smiles don’t feel honest at all. People tend to associate a somber or serious expression to be more honest or less posed, though I do think that if somebody is all out laughing, it can be just as honest of a photograph. And then obviously not retouching photographs and not using any lighting tricks or weird angles or funky crazy colors — just to keep it very neutral. My lighting is very flat and doesn’t have any shadows, it’s not hiding anything, everybody is photographed from the same straight-on angle. I think that all helps to make a more honest feeling portrait.

Although your photos give that impression of honesty, you’ve also said that there’s actually no such thing as a completely honest portrait because the photographer’s subjectivity always comes into play.

And you know, so many times I’ve heard that I’m a soul catcher, that I really capture the soul of people but you know what? I don’t think you can capture a soul! This old idea of photographs really capturing all the elements and something deeper within the person, I always felt it was a little contrived. So I do think that all photographs lie! There’s no objective picture. A person is so multi-faceted that you can’t reduce them to a single perspective and say you captured everything about them. But then again, there are portrait photographs which are not about people at all.

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Last week’s Interview
Armando Iannucci

Armando Iannucci: “There are no rules anymore”

June 24, 2020
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Mr. Iannucci, I couldn’t help but notice that your films tend to be set in the past, and your most recent television series was set in the future…

Yes! Am I running away from the present? (Laughs)

That’s what I was going to ask. Is the world right now too surreal for you?

Well, it’s a number of things. I’ve done about 10 years of very, very contemporary political comedy, and so inevitably after that you want to do something different. But I also thought that what is happening in the world is so surreal! There are no conventions or rules anymore, Trump has literally said, “I could shoot someone in the face in the middle of 5th Avenue and get elected.” Or now, in the middle of a pandemic, people are anti-science, and somehow someone surviving the disease is a political choice rather than a medical choice. It’s so in another world that I felt that the only way I can make any kind of statement or come up with a work that is looking at the present, is by doing it through the medium of another time or another world.