Thursday, October 31, 2013

Marco Grob: Master Of Faces

By Mark Edward Harris, Photography By Marco Grob Published in Photographer Profiles
Lady Gaga
Lady Gaga
Christina Hendricks. Marco Grob uses Hasselblad cameras for his still images, and he has recently migrated from HDSLRs to RED cameras for his 4K motion projects.

DPP: It's fascinating how one week you're off shooting these kinds of assignments and the next you're photographing Leonardo DiCaprio, Steven Spielberg or Michael Douglas. And now you're incorporating video, at times, as part of your assignments at home and abroad. Are you using hybrid cameras to do this?

Grob: We worked with HDSLRs along the way, but now we're experimenting with 4K. I love the RED camera; I think it's a mind-blowing piece of equipment.

DPP: So, does this necessitate working with a larger crew?

Grob: We actually don't. We did Beyond 9/11: Portraits of Resilience for TIME magazine with a team of three people. We won an Emmy® for it. We even did the sound ourselves because of budget considerations.

DPP: How did you handle such a vital part of a film production? There's the expression, "An audience can live with a bad picture, they can't live with bad sound."

Jimmy Kimmel. Beyond his stunning celebrity photography, Grob does considerable editorial and humanitarian work. He's personally passionate about the necessity for artists to use their talents and skills where they can make the world into a better place. Grob has done extensive work with the United Nations Mine Action Service.

Grob: Sound is key. I have deep respect for sound people for their knowledge and skills. I understand the limitations we have. When we were awarded the job to do Portraits of Resilience, it was a big deal for a magazine to go full multimedia. When I was confronted with that, I told my assistants, we had three weeks to get our sound skills up to a level where we could play the project in a movie theatre and not feel ashamed. We got a Tascam DR-100 and a preamp with two channels. We worked with a lavalier and a pretty nice shotgun mic. It's basic what we do—recording a person being interviewed with two mics under controlled circumstances. It's a simple fact these days. If you want to be part of the game, down the road it's either you're multimedia or you're not at all.

DPP: It's not down the road; it's next door. I gather you're not using the Elinchrom modeling lights to illuminate your video projects.

Grob: You can't because of the ventilation noise. We had to make our setup travel-friendly for a small crew. For Beyond 9/11, we lit the white background with two 1Ks, and in front of the subject, we had one. We shot the video first because the setup was more elaborate; then we did stills and switched to strobes. For Beyond 9/11, we shot the video with three DSLR cameras. For the new One Dream on the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King's March on Washington, we shot with four cameras. This was done for Red Border Films, the new documentary filmmaking unit and interactive digital platform on We did interviews with 17 participants from the movement, including Joan Baez and Harry Belafonte.

DPP: No matter if you're shooting video or stills, your lighting is so precise. That seems like it came from your days shooting product and still life. When you see a face, you sculpt the light to it.

Grob: That's certainly true. I'm an observer. I love light, I observe light. I see what it does. I look at the work of other photographers and filmmakers. I sat in on a class for a week up in Maine with the great cinematographer Russell Carpenter who shot Titanic. It's a constant learning curve. It's something I love. I'm always asking myself, "How can I improve my storytelling abilities?" I know I'm a lucky bastard. I've got this enormous front-row seat to history at this particular moment in time, which I want to keep myself strapped into for the rest of my life. Being a photographer is the most interesting, most daunting, most fantastic way to make a living.

See more of Marco Grob's photography at

What I Use

"I use Hasselblad cameras exclusively, the H5D 60MP," says Grob. "For lenses, I use the Hasselblad 80mm, 50mm, 35mm and 120mm macro." For lighting, Grob has been a longtime Elinchrom user. "I've used Elinchrom for almost 25 years," he says. "We use mostly monoheads. I love them because of their weight-to-power ratio, fewer cables, etc. We have several 650ws and several 1200ws heads. We use quite an array of Elinchrome light modifiers. The Ranger Quadras with travel battery packs are absolutely fantastic! We used them in Africa and in the cold, and they're just amazing—powerful and light!"

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