Tuesday, February 23, 2010
Mary Ellen Matthews: It's Saturday Night!
SNL staff photographer Mary Ellen Matthews does the photography equivalent of herding cats every week as she makes cool, quirky and creative images of the show’s guests
Matthews is fortunate, she says, to work with subjects who are generally willing and cooperative. Because they have agreed to be a part of SNL, they tend to be open to the process of the shoot and somewhat less likely to reject the photographer’s concepts out of hand.
“Nothing is ever really out of bounds, ever,” she explains. “There’s a looseness to it. An ‘okay, let’s do it!’ kind of thing. I try to do research before the shoot and get some ideas and try to keep it new and fresh each week. I work with a stylist, and I present some tear sheets or books and ideas, and I’ll certainly work with the stylist to come up with where we’re going.”
The “just do it” attitude is also influenced by the schedule of the production; subjects must feel it, too. There’s no time to waste when working in live TV, and the stills are no different.
“My goal is to make it as quick and as easy as possible,” says Matthews of her portrait sessions. “They’re here to host a show, so I try to make it ‘I’ll fly under the radar’ week. If it’s on Tuesday, we’ll have a couple of hours. Today [with the Dave Matthews Band and Joseph Gordon-Levitt ] was very quick, maybe 40 minutes with Joseph to do four or five different looks. I’ve got to say, it’s the best training anyone could possibly have. I can make something happen so fast it will make your head spin.”
Actor Paul Rudd
“I don’t feel any pressure at all to be anything,” she says. “I feel comfortable in what I do for the show. The only pressure I feel is to keep it new. The challenge that I have is that because we’re in high definition, the ratio is 16x9, and to put a vertical person in a horizontal space gets difficult. It gets a little frustrating. So [I’m just] trying to come up with different sorts of positionings and orientations and just kind of looking at it differently, if I can, week by week. Just trying to keep it fresh.”
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