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Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Art Streiber: Tell Me What You Want Me To Do

In his photography of Hollywood’s A-list, Art Streiber coaxes the artists into performing for his camera


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The stars of Last Vegas were photographed on a compressed schedule. Streiber had about one hour with the actors, and he had to work with them on three different sets. The concept for this photo came from a Slim Aarons photo of Clark Gable, Van Heflin, Gary Cooper and Jimmy Stewart.
When it finally came down to the big day itself, it took about 25 minutes to load all of these A-list actors, actresses and directors into the set, but we only shot for 5 minutes and 50 seconds. Once Rick had gotten everybody into position, we photographed the stage in three sections. I panned my Hasselblad H3 with the IQ160 back and a 150mm lens left, middle, right, left, middle, right. When we had test-driven this, we realized that asking someone to sit still or stand still for much more than five minutes was asking a lot. We really didn't need to shoot in excess of 20 frames per each section with tiny adjustments of body positions on a couple of people.

DPP: How did you feel behind the camera, with 116 of the who's who of Hollywood in front of your lens?

Streiber: I was nervous approaching the shoot, but I really wasn't overwhelmed. By the time we got to the day of the shoot, everything was nailed down. We had done our job. I realized that it was of staggering historical importance assembling this many actors, actresses and directors in one place, but it really wasn't until they walked in the door that it really hit me. They came in without their managers, publicists, agents and assistants, so everywhere you looked there was a famous face. That was kind of intimidating. But it turns out after talking with a number of them before and after the shoot that they were more nervous than I was.

Individually, for the most part, these people are fans of the other people in the image just like we are. A number of them were starstruck by their contemporaries or older actors or directors and couldn't believe they were there. Charlize Theron said to me, "Oh, my God, I got to put my hand on Harrison Ford's shoulder." We assume all these people know each other and live together in a gated community at the top of the Hollywood Hills, but the reality is, most of them don't know each other.

I remember right before the shoot started, I was making my way up to where my tripod was and Leonardo DiCaprio was just standing, staring at the stage with his arms crosed. I said, "Hey, Leo, I'm Art, I'm the photographer. We worked together a couple of weeks ago for The Hollywood Reporter." He kept staring at the stage and said, "This is monumental." When DiCaprio said that about the project we were about to undertake, that really hit home.

DPP: What's your approach to working with celebrities and entertainment people who can be very ego-driven?


Justin Bieber in a photo that exemplifies the immortality of fame.
Streiber: For the most part, the way I deal with people who the public feels have big egos or that get fawned over all the time is that I treat them as equals or I act like the director. I never say, "Oh, my God, it's an honor to meet you. I love your work." Maybe at the end of the shoot, I'll say something acknowledging their latest project. I establish that I'm in charge and I want to make them look great. At the same time, I want to be very collaborative with my subjects. "This is what we're planning to do today. What do you think of this?" I acknowledge their time limits and respect that they have shown up to do a job. I've been really fortunate that I've never had an actor walk off the set and I've never had a shoot completely break down, though there was one time in Las Vegas when Jerry Lewis kicked me out of his office after I asked him to sit on the couch.

DPP: Why was he so uptight about the couch? Did it belong to Dean Martin?

Streiber: I'm really not sure why he got bent out of shape. We had already photographed him at his desk. I think he was just over being photographed.

DPP: What initially sparked your interest in photography?



 

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