Thursday, June 14, 2007
Robert Polgar - Simple Elegance
Breaking into the next tier of professional fashion photography takes perseverance and a whole lot of testing
There's an old book about the film business called Breaking Through, Selling Out, Dropping Dead and Other Notes on Filmmaking. In the book, author William Bayer discusses some of the challenges facing people looking to get into the film industry. Robert Polgar is a Los Angeles-based photographer who's no stranger to breaking in. At the age of 29, he has already run his own graphic design firm, been an assistant to a producer during the making of The Matrix and, of course, he's a successful photographer. Each of these endeavors is in an industry that's notoriously difficult for emerging young talent and yet Polgar has persevered.
These days, between high-definition film projects, Polgar is doing a lot of work with some of L.A.'s biggest modeling agencies. He has a unique ability to work with less-experienced models as well as seasoned veterans.
Says Polgar, “I tend to develop a good rapport with the models, and I try to make the shoot a collaborative thing. The agency usually has a theme that they want, but once I've got that done, I try to work with the models to get something different. Sometimes the younger models are a little unsure of themselves and it's more difficult to have a high-energy shoot, but I'm pretty good at getting them to open up and try new poses beyond what they've seen in the magazines.”
Getting that “something different” is what has made Polgar's work distinctive. Los Angeles has no shortage of photographers, but most of them are too rigid in what they want from a model during a shoot. In contrast to that approach, Polgar says, “I think it's essential to get input from the people I'm working with. I like to make it an organic process with the make-up artist, the stylists and the models.”
When he's shooting, Polgar embraces experimentation. He describes a recent shoot in the studio: “I always experiment with lighting. I think you can only take metering and all the prescribed methods of portrait or fashion photography so far. Most of my lighting is done by intuition at this point. I do put an emphasis on the eyes and trying to alleviate shadows under the chin. But I think it's important to try new things out.
“The other night, I needed to get fill-light on a model's face for a beauty shot and my white boards/reflectors were in the car. I spotted a shiny Macy's box in the corner of my studio and it worked perfectly because it gave an unpredictable, but desirable effect of having an almost starry fill on the model's face. A week before that, I had 10 Maglights shining through party gels—I make use of what's lying around basically. I use a lot of cinema lighting when I'm playing around, for example, shining a 1.2k through a window and having a bounce board redirect the light onto the model's face—throw in some fog and you have a really cool 3D moody shot.”