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
Whether it's for fine art or commercial purposes, Greenfield-Sanders consistently crafts his portraits with the same finely tuned, timeless quality. This comes, he says, from knowing his limitations and doing only what he's good at.
“People come to me because they want what I do,” he says. “And I don't do too much beyond what I think I'm good at. I'm not a still-life photographer, I don't do landscapes, I don't do lifestyle portraiture. That's not who I am. So if you want a serious portrait, it's almost always in a studio and it has a sort of depth to it, that's what I do. Fortunately, that can also be used in a commercial way. I kind of go in and out of style, I guess.”
With so many fashionistas approving of his work, Greenfield-Sanders must certainly be in style right now. After his all-digital experience, will the results keep him there?
“My pictures looked great,” he says. “When you have very expensive lighting, it looks good. We had a really big setup. It was a little tight in there with an Elinchrom Octabank, which is like 72 or 80 inches. The larger the light source and the closer it is to the subject, the softer the light is going to be. If you're doing a portrait, particularly, you should have it as close as possible because the light will be much softer. It should be right on top of them.”
For now, Greenfield-Sanders is still a large-format film photographer utilizing traditional lighting and portraiture techniques. But since beginning this digital project, he admits that some of his tools have changed and will continue to evolve over time.
“I'm starting to actually shoot certain things digitally,” he says, “just because if they aren't going to require ever being blown up too big, if something is never going to be more than 11x14 or 16x20, then I think you can at this point adequately shoot digitally. And, of course, you save a lot of money. So in a project like this, where the ultimate goal is to have a book and have pictures that can be reproduced in magazines and things like that—even if we have a little exhibition of them, we can certainly blow them up big enough—I think it all works fine. If you're planning to do 5x6-foot exhibition prints, then I don't think you can shoot digitally yet adequately.”
Ultimately, it's the similarities between film and digital capture that intrigue Greenfield-Sanders the most, like the low-tech side effects that let him better bond with his subjects.
“One of the things that I do when I'm shooting in large format is that I tend to shoot 8x10 with a big Polaroid back,” he says. “And I'm very accustomed to showing the picture to the subject because it creates a certain trust. So when I'm shooting in my studio with a big camera, I do a Polaroid, and 60 seconds later I just say, ‘Here's what it looks like.' It creates a wonderful relationship between the photographer and the subject. Obviously, with digital you can do that. It really is very helpful because it gives the subject a sense of ease and confidence that he or she is looking good and that the lighting is nice and all these things. I'm very eager to use that side of digital.”
To see more of Timothy Greenfield-Sanders' photography, visit www.greenfield-sanders.com.
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