Tuesday, February 8, 2011
Jake Chessum: Keeping It Light
Jake Chessum photographs celebrities and global power brokers with unexpected twists to their very public personas
Dave Chappelle on set.
It’s vital to maintain someone’s interest in being photographed. I’m pragmatic and realistic about it. A lot of people who you shoot, they’re not that interested in being photographed.
Conan O’Brien goes over notes before a taping.
Chessum: I try and take pictures that I’m interested in, that I’m invested in. They often don’t fit into the standard definition of a portrait. I think that the aim of any photographer should be to get hired to take the kind of pictures they want to take. I hope that most of the jobs I get, whilst obviously commercial—inasmuch as I get paid for doing them—are aesthetically somewhat uncompromised, that I would take them in that style anyway. But at the same time I’m a commercial photographer, so I’m aware of what I have to deliver to the client.
Megastar Will Smith takes a moment to chat with local kids. Getting celebrities to relax their guard is a rare talent, and Chessum is able to capture singular moments with famous personalities often hidden from the public.
With Viggo, even though he’s a movie star and there were time constraints, there was a lot of freedom and collaboration. He’s a photographer in addition to being an actor, so he was great to work with. He was very visually aware. He got what I was trying to do. He was invested in it. It was a very intense thing. Even though there were people around, it’s just me and him forming a relationship for the period of the shoot. The shots were done using the ambient light.
DPP: Who are your photographic and art heroes?
Chessum: Harry Callahan and William Eggleston. Ellsworth Kelly and Eduardo Chillida. The Chuck Close exhibition at MOMA really inspired me—his attention to detail. I’m now into very graphic painting, Richard Avedon with his words and pictures. He once said, “A portrait is not a likeness. The moment an emotion or fact is transformed into a photograph it is no longer a fact but an opinion. There is no such thing as inaccuracy in a photograph. All photographs are accurate. None of them is the truth.” I feel that absolutely hits the spot. I feel, especially with celebrity pictures, when someone says, “Oh, that captures the real him.” It doesn’t. It captures what you think about the real him.
To see more of Jake Chessum’s photography, visit www.jakechessum.com.
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