Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Greg Gorman: Beyond The Frame

By Mark Edward Harris, Photography By Greg Gorman Published in Photographer Profiles
Greg Gorman has been producing dramatically lit, high-impact black-and-white images for an l.a.Eyeworks campaign that has been going strong for more than three decades. With an unprecedented amount of creative control, he has delivered photographs of artists from just about every imaginable field. Above: Model, actress and musician Brigitte Nielsen.
Greg Gorman has been producing dramatically lit, high-impact black-and-white images for an l.a.Eyeworks campaign that has been going strong for more than three decades. With an unprecedented amount of creative control, he has delivered photographs of artists from just about every imaginable field. Above: Model, actress and musician Brigitte Nielsen.
Gymnasts Kevin and Andrew Atherton

DPP: It's interesting that you've named the photographers whose work has truly transcended the editorial and advertising worlds to become iconic fine-art pieces. You've done the same with the l.a.Eyeworks campaign. How do you get the most out of your subjects to create such timeless portraits?
Gorman: I try and spend time with them; I involve the people I photograph in the process. They play a very big part in the photo sessions. I'm very conscientious about making sure they have as much to say about what I'm doing as I do. It's both of our time we're investing in the shoot. I want the results to represent something we're both proud of.

DPP: What was it like to work with Andy Warhol?

Gorman: Andy called me up right at the time he had signed with Ford Models and asked if it would be okay if I used him for the campaign. That shot has become probably the most iconic image of the campaign and my most iconic image. When shooting advertising, you usually don't think you're going to create an image that you're going to be best known for. That's the magic of this campaign.

DPP: Warhol was such a visionary. Did he try to direct the shoot?

Gorman: He barely said a word. Andy was very quiet and shy, and liked to watch things behind the scenes. It turned out to be one of his favorite images, and his foundation uses that photo to this day. We looked at the glass choices together and decided on the pair that worked for his face and matched the motorcycle jacket he brought.

DPP: Why do you think the campaign has withstood the test of time?

Model and actress Jenny Shimizu

Gorman:Because Gai Gherardi and Barbara McReynolds have been such progressive leaders in the eyeglass industry. They have given me the room to run creatively, and we've been able to get cutting-edge people that reach a broad market. We've done mainstream actors like Pierce Brosnan, Sharon Stone and Arnold Schwarzenegger, and the flip side of the coin with some of the great performance artists like John Kelly, drag queen RuPaul, actor, writer and director John Waters, and musicians Iggy Pop and Frank Zappa. I photographed my dear friend Patty Hearst for one of the ads. Both my French bulldogs are from her. I met her through John Waters when he was shooting Cry-Baby, and she was in the film. Sometimes it's a bit of a challenge to photograph clear glasses on people who have never worn glasses. The glasses that l.a.Eyeworks are best known for are very progressive, sometimes kind of askew and quirky. That sometimes requires a little bit of a handholding—someone like Rob Lowe when he was a teenager, putting quirky glasses on such a handsome face.

DPP: Is there any truth to the statement that people look smarter when they wear glasses?

Gorman: I think they look cooler with sunglasses and smarter with clear glasses. It definitely adds an intellectual layer to the pictures. Wearing a pair of glasses for those who need them means they care enough to see what they're doing.

See more of Greg Gorman's photography at www.gormanphotography.com. Sign up for his workshops at www.gormanworkshops.com. The book FRAMED is available at www.laeyeworks.com.

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