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Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Arny Freytag: Master Of The centerfold

With an eye for detail, unparalleled lighting skills and the ability to connect with a model, Arny Freytag’s career at Playboy traces that magazine’s cutting-edge glamour nude photography

This Article Features Photo Zoom
DPP: Why the change in course?

Freytag: It kind of happened because of what young photographers are doing. It's a Cell Phone Revolution. People are getting used to seeing more realistic, less produced-looking images. The use of a ringlight flash and Terry Richardson's on-camera flash photos—simply lit images are very popular.

There's also a different mind-set these days. A young man in his 20s isn't dreaming of living in a mansion and sailing yachts. I did when I was a kid. Our sets now are less opulent. We use fewer props. We used to say, "This girl lives in a penthouse in New York City. She's got a Renoir hanging on the wall and beautiful crystal. She has Jimmy Choo shoes and Louis Vuitton bags."

DPP: At the heyday of lighting the elaborate set as well as the model, how many strobes would you have?

Freytag: Everything that was a full-length shot was never less than 30. Some went up to 50. Almost all were on separate power packs. We used bi-tubes a lot because we were shooting with the 8x10 camera at that time and needed to get to ƒ/22. We used a lot of 3˚ and 10˚ grids for highlights.

DPP: When did the 8x10 camera give way to smaller formats and eventually digital?

Freytag: We went to a Fuji 6x7 for a short time, then Hasselblad digital. Now I'm shooting with the Leica S2 37.5-megapixel digital camera. It was a matter of finance and speed and the quality of digital that made the decision to make the switch. Each 8x10 Polaroid was 20 bucks, and they don't make it anymore. I figured out that I waited a total of two weeks of every year for Polaroids to develop.

DPP: Playmates aren't professional fashion models who are used to working in front of a camera. How do you bring out the best in a model?

Freytag: These girls are complete amateurs. They're young, they're not models, they're not actresses. They're just girls off the street. They've never been in front of a professional camera except for maybe a yearbook photo. I'm trying to find, and then bring out, the beauty and sensuality of the girl. We used to have five days to shoot a centerfold and two and a half weeks to shoot small camera [35mm] and would have the time to get to know them. Now, it's one morning to shoot the centerfold, and I've got Playboy TV in there with their videographer, a microphone guy with a boom, a director and then my crew. So here is this girl with no clothes on with all these lights on her and all these people on the set, and I'm trying to get her to look sexy and intimate and relaxed. I'm trying to find her inner and outer beauty in this environment in a really short time. The key is to keep it light and fun and not to get serious on them and not let them know how serious the images are and how much pressure there is to come away with a successful photo.

DPP: Why are they not professional models? What's the idea behind "the girl next door" approach?

Freytag: The first three centerfolds for the magazine were existing images Hef [Hugh Hefner] bought from calendar shoots. Then the magazine hired professional models. I think Janet Pilgrim [born Charlaine Karalus] was the first centerfold that wasn't a model. She worked for the magazine, and Hef thought, "This girl sitting in my office is beautiful. Why don't we photograph her? This could be the girl next door that anyone could meet. You could meet her in a park in Chicago. You could meet her at a bus stop. You could meet her at a party." It gives the reader the feeling that she's not out of reach. It's not Jennifer Lopez who you'll never meet in your life.

DPP: Is Hugh Hefner still very involved in the magazine?

Freytag: He approves every picture, every cartoon—all the art that goes in the magazine.


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