Monday, April 28, 2008
Ken Sax - Taking A Shot
Celebrity photographer Ken Sax has successfully managed an eclectic career with a little luck, a thirst for knowledge and a lot of charm
I don't find that there's much of a contrast between celebrity and typical portraiture,” muses celebrity-portrait photographer Ken Sax. “Obviously, walking into a studio or location, there are a lot of obstacles that both the photographer and celebrities face, but in most cases, friendships seem to develop rather quickly. I don't have time to put much thought into the little things. When you go into a shoot, whether it be celebrity, portrait or editorial, it all comes down to the same thing—the shoot!”
When asked if he'd like to classify his work as purely portrait photography, Sax balks a little and notes that he has been fortunate enough to explore many areas of photography, including foreign markets, fashion, publicity, advertising, editorial work and one-sheets for film and movie posters. He admits that behind all of his professional images are celebrities. But behind all the celebrities has been Ken Sax.
An extensive history in film and television production has prepared Sax for the rigors of high-profile commercial work. For an Edwin jeans campaign, Sax was involved from the get-go, working out the production with the company and a crew of 35 people. The model, a popular Japanese celebrity, was flown in from Japan for a shoot that lasted several days. The production involved seven trucks, five photo assistants, several producers to keep things in check and a catering company. Sax points out that a commercial shoot of this caliber requires a lot of organization and can take months just to scout locations, let alone the intense amount of dedication for the shoot in general. But that's Sax all over.
From a less than ideal beginning as a teenage runaway, Sax has done pretty well for himself. Beginning his career at the age of 16 as an assistant to a commercial production manager, Sax's attraction to the world of entertainment was immediate. Thrown into the fast-paced world of production, Sax spent his formative years alongside legendary cinematographers such as Allen Daviau.
A desire to further his craft also brought Sax, still in his teens, to a job at a Hollywood motion picture house. Here, he was able to tinker and explore with cameras, getting to know the inner workings of optics and exposure. Just as importantly, it was here that several cameramen noted Sax's potential. He soon found himself back on shoots, this time as an assistant cameraman.
“For two years, I did everything from fixing Steadicams to running down mountains while pulling focus as cattle filled the air with clouds of dust,” says Sax. “During this time, I picked up an old Nikon FTn camera and would shoot stills during takes. I'd challenge myself every chance I got.”
Sax's mentors soon left the business, unfortunately, and he found himself back on his own. For a while, Sax did what it took to pay the rent by freelancing on independent features and anything else that came his way, including some initial publicity assignments. Soon the quality of his still imagery began to be noticed.