DPP Home Profiles Albert Watson : Calm On The Set

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Albert Watson : Calm On The Set

Albert Watson is one of the most respected photographers in fashion and fine art. His career has been marked by creating a seemingly endless supply of iconic images and a dedication to perfection in each of them.

This Article Features Photo Zoom

Malcolm X Fashion Story photographed for The Face, New York City, 1992. Watson was hired to do a Malcolm X-inspired fashion shoot featuring several big-name designers. True to his methodical style, Watson researched Malcolm X’s life and assassination. To keep the confrontational look, he had the actor playing the role of Malcolm X looking into the camera to have that hard eye contact with the viewer. Placing the policeman in the foreground gave the image another edgy element.
Watson: Making a mini-film with still photos, making a story about something, expands your vision. You need to think once in a while about a story. Take me to a place, take me to the people, show me a person’s stresses and worries in their face. Be a little more intimate so you really feel the subject. If you have a baker, and the baker has a little bit of flour on his face, shoot that. Then let me see the shoes, the hands, the face, the eyes. Get close to the person and then pull back and boom—wide angle of the entire building, the street, the town, the vista, 95 percent sky and a little tiny baking house. Take the viewer in and out so they never have a chance to get bored. Especially nowadays, people get bored so fast.

DPP: Why these days, in particular?

Watson: We have hundreds of TV channels with commercials going all the time. Things are changing so fast. Go back and look at some of the work of W. Eugene Smith. See how he photographed a Spanish village in one of his famous LIFE magazine photo essays. He gave you the pulse of the place and its people in a few frames.

DPP: Even in your single frames, you often get up close and personal with your subjects so you can really feel them.

Watson: When you get something that’s intimate in portraiture, it’s a great achievement. With strong, simple photography, there’s no need to party it up. When you hit something that’s intimate and powerful, you don’t need anything. There’s a certain beauty to that. I want to keep things very, very human and intimate and not let things get overly manipulated. I have a problem with a lot of computer imaging where the computer dominates and, therefore, you have to say, “Well, okay, the impact is coming from the computer imaging.” I find it a little bit removed. It becomes so technical. I don’t respond to it. Sometimes I’m a bit bored by the technique dominating the picture. I’m always looking for something intimate, to feel the human being in it, to feel the photographer’s personality through the shot.

See more of Albert Watson’s photographs at www.albertwatson.net.


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