Friday, April 10, 2009
Patrick Ecclesine: Sunset Blvd.
Los Angeleno Patrick Ecclesine’s work captures the hopes and aspirations of a city built on its dreams
“I shot everything,” he says. “Film, digital, medium-format digital, 5-megapixel, medium-format, whatever I could get my hands on at different times. For me, a camera is a camera. It’s just an instrument. Certainly, every one has pluses and minuses, pros and cons. But a light is a light, and a camera is a camera. I think what it really comes down to is how you shape light, and how you modify it, and how you control it with the background.
“I think that’s where the photographer’s point of view really comes across,” he continues. “I used to look at photographs before I started shooting, and I would be like, ‘Wow, look at this portrait of take-your-pick actor.’ I’d be like, ‘Wow, this image really shows what’s going on in his head. I didn’t really know he had that in him.’ I would take people at appearances, but then as you start evolving as a photographer, you realize that, no, it’s not even about the subject. I mean it is, but a photograph says more about the photographer than the subject.
“My particular mind-set is one that is very interested in contrast, in graphic lines and in making things look as good as they possibly can,” admits Ecclesine. “This style of photography that I’m doing is cinematic. It tells a story. It’s a moment heightened by creative use of lighting. I’m emphasizing my subjects with light; I’m bringing them out of the background, dropping the background down and making my subject first and foremost. My goal is to make everyone look like a million bucks. From the crackhead to the governor, everybody is going to get equal treatment. Hence the mayor; hence the homeless person on the opposite page. Everyone has an equal voice in this book. No one’s point of view is going to be discredited. No one is better than anyone else. We’re all equal.”
Equal in Ecclesine’s eyes or not, a lot of Faces is about the disparity between the social classes. Ecclesine had in mind a cross-cultural cast of archetypical Angelenos—the migrant worker, the homeless man, the wannabe actor, the writer, the agent, the celebrity—and these are easy people to approach on the street while exploring an area of the boulevard. Others, not so much. Sunset Boulevard snakes through the gated communities in and around Beverly Hills, where it takes more than just charm to work your way into a meeting, let alone a successful shoot. Gaining access to the aristocracy of L.A., even just for a photo, can be a metaphor in itself, and the more difficult they were to procure, the more conceptualized the shots became.
A rooftop shot of the Chief of the LAPD, William J. Bratton, for instance, called for a police helicopter that took Ecclesine months of negotiations to secure. Even then, he only got the police chief for all of five minutes. Ecclesine had the helicopter do two passes in front of the sun, and then the next thing he knew, Bratton was shaking his hand goodbye. In a situation like that, Ecclesine had to be totally prepared. He was, and the shot has become Bratton’s favorite portrait of himself.
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