Tuesday, May 29, 2007
Timothy Greenfield-Sanders - The Portrait's The Thing
For an ambitious project spanning several years of the New York spectacle that's Fashion Week, Timothy Greenfield-Sanders shed his 8x10 view camera in favor of small-format digital capture
Timothy Greenfield-Sanders is a master portrait photographer. Working with large-format film cameras for nearly 30 years, he has built a body of work that has earned him the reputation as one of the best at his craft. From artists to actors, presidents to porn stars, everybody who's anybody has sat for him.
Taking a studied approach to the creation of individual images, in addition to their organization within a cohesive body of work, Greenfield-Sanders has perfected his own portrait style. His projects usually center on the study of a particular subculture, such as the personalities of politics, the art world or adult films.
His most recent book, Look: Portraits Backstage at Olympus Fashion Week, is a study of the faces on the bleeding edge of the fashion world. For the last three seasons, Greenfield-Sanders has taken his studio on location to a tent backstage at New York's Olympus Fashion Week, the biannual event where designers showcase their spring and fall collections. Sponsored by Olympus' Visionaries program, Greenfield-Sanders took the opportunity to face the inevitable and do something he had never done before.
“It's certainly the first digital project that I've ever done,” he explains. “I've shot snapshots for years because they're fun to do and easy to e-mail—and kind of an inevitable turn for every photographer in the digital world. I don't think it's something I can control. My film that I used for 20 years, my 11x14 black-and-white film, is no longer made, and 8x10 is getting increasingly more difficult to get.”
For the Fashion Week project, Greenfield-Sanders used digital cameras. While the experience itself was unique, the pluses of working digitally weren't entirely unknown. “I'm totally into digital,” he says. “I would love to get a large-format back for my own camera. I'm much more known for large-format work, but I love computers and digital cameras and all this stuff. I shoot 8x10 transparency, scan it and then we work with all the materials digitally from then on. It's all done on computers. I think it's interesting and has a great use.”
Greenfield-Sanders considers digital retouching a necessary part of his process. He doesn't use it to repair poor workmanship, but rather sees it as another way to make the most of his time with his subjects.