DPP Home Profiles Patrick Hoelck - Film Noir

Friday, May 25, 2007

Patrick Hoelck - Film Noir

Patrick Hoelck's distinctively dark style casts today's brightest stars in a new light

Film NoirIn the 1940s and '50s, during Hollywood's golden age of film noir, darkness ruled the silver screen. Actors' faces were often masked in shadow with highlights placed precisely for maximum dramatic effect. Los Angeles photographer Patrick Hoelck puts a modern twist on this classic approach, photographing today's biggest stars in his own unique world of shadow and light.

Like a Hollywood classic, Hoelck's portraits reveal a masterful understanding of studio lighting and an attention to detail that no technology can replace. He doesn't believe in the computer as a tool to cover up sloppy workmanship, preferring instead to let an obsessive personality push him to precision in lighting and perfection in the camera. In fact, only recently has Hoelck begun using the computer at all.

“Out of all of my work,” he says, “I've probably only shot two or three jobs fully digitally. Ironically, I just came back from my best digital experience. We did all the ads for Battlestar Galactica's new season; it was all digital, and it was the best digital job I've ever done. I finally think I had a technician who understood me. In the past, I hadn't, and I never really dug it because of that. They'd say, ‘Yeah, yeah. We can get your look in two seconds,' and I'd get to set and it was just like ‘You're in outer space!'”

Hoelck typically shoots 4x5 and 6x7 film—Kodak Portra 400. In the last three years, he has begun to scan his negatives for retouching, but that decision was purely business-driven; celebrities want their photographers to fully harness the power of Photoshop.

“We don't change the value of light,” Hoelck explains. “It's more retouching in the sense that we're working with entertainers and doing what's needed to make them look a certain way. When I didn't do it, I missed out on some jobs that I used to get, and I was always curious because I thought I was doing good work. I wasn't getting some actresses and I wasn't getting some bigger entertainers until I realized that it was because they wanted more digital retouching options. So I embraced it and I love it, but I don't really rely on retouching because I never had it before. My experience was to bring it in on film in an obsessive-compulsive manner because that was the way it would hit press. If I didn't get it in-camera, I couldn't rely on anyone to alter it, and I still think that way when I'm shooting.

“We do tweaks for sure,” Hoelck continues, “but I don't believe in being a computer artist or leaning on it that hard. I feel like I work hard to get the look in-camera and not just randomly shoot. I'm very particular on set with light and look. I don't like to leave things hanging to be digitally fixed later. I think that's kind of hack work. I never wanted to be that. I work very closely with a great retoucher at DigitalFusion, Joe Puleio.”


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