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The Elegant Portraiture of Timothy Greenfield-Sanders:
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In the ’80s and ’90s, he continued shooting commercial, editorial, and high-end advertising work, “which pays you real money.” He used 11x14, 8x10 and medium-format cameras. In 1999, he photographed Monica Lewinsky for the cover of her book of memoirs, a portrait that also appeared on the cover of TIME. To this day, he says, they remain friends. “As a photographer, I get to meet so many great people,” he remarks. The rapport he develops with his subjects enables him to reveal the real person behind the famous face.

Besides being a highly successful photographer, Greenfield-Sanders has also returned to his roots as a filmmaker. After photographing the legendary musician Lou Reed, the two became friends, which led to his making a Grammy award-winning documentary film for PBS’ American Masters’ Series called Lou Reed: Rock n’ Roll Heart. Produced and directed by Greenfield-Sanders, this film comprises interviews, photos and music, and explores Lou Reed’s life from childhood to his involvement with the Velvet Underground and his solo career.

Actor Alec Baldwin.

N.Y. Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Diverse Camera Gear
“Despite the fact that I shoot with a large-format camera,” he points out, “I started playing with digital imaging a long time ago.” He enjoys using the computer to send movies and music to people, and for working with his images, he says. Digitally, Greenfield-Sanders is currently using the Olympus E-1 SLR system. He likes it because it’s lightweight, and “from the ground up, it’s all digital.” On occasion, he shoots with the Olympus C-8080. Greenfield-Sanders is also one of the Olympus Visionaries, a group of professional photographers who work closely with Olympus in giving feedback to develop products.

He’s known for his 11x14 work, but Greenfield-Sanders is shooting more often these days in an 8x10 format, as 11x14 film is being phased out. “I still shoot assignment and personal work on film,” he says, but does a lot of “fun work at openings of films and other events digitally.” AOL has asked him to contribute to a digital photography page on the Internet.

Original Portrayals
His latest book, entitled XXX 30 Porn-Star Portraits, was initially inspired by the ’97 movie, Boogie Nights. “After seeing this,” he says, “I thought it might be interesting to take pictures of people from the porn industry.” He photographed one male porn actor clothed, then the actor suggested that he also have his pictures taken nude. “I just posed him the same way as he was when he had his clothes on,” says Greenfield-Sanders. The result was interesting, but he put the project aside for a while.

Later, the legendary star of Deep Throat, Linda Lovelace, died and Greenfield-Sanders says he regretted not having the opportunity to photograph her. He began working on his book “on my own nickel.” Eventually he teamed up with Bulfinch Press and produced the XXX book, which portrays 30 top stars of porn films in side-by-side portraits; one clothed, one nude. As Greenfield-Sanders knows a lot of writers, many of the most notable people in the literary and entertainment world have contributed essays to this book: Gore Vidal, Karen Finley, John Waters, Lou Reed, and John Malkovich among them. Additionally, each of the porn stars has written a brief biography. The book has become a huge success. With its unique double portraits of each actor, this book is a very original, artistic portrayal of today’s adult film stars. Greenfield-Sanders says, “It’s more than a book, it’s a CD, DVD and documentary.” He made the documentary on XXX for HBO. Not surprisingly, XXX has also garnered much attention from the press, “From Hustler to Artforum.”

Actor Ethan Hawke.

Pop artist Andy Warhol.

Upcoming projects include plans for a book of comedians’ portraits, which, according to Greenfield-Sanders, will have a similar treatment to XXX. He continues to do advertising work for clients like Alcoa, as well as being a contributing photographer for Vanity Fair, Index, and a myriad of other publications. He’s also recently photographed Bill Murray for the cover of Cigar Aficionado.

Whatever direction he chooses to take, Greenfield-Sanders has earned the right to take some artistic chances with his portraiture. And without a doubt, his work will continue to be critically acclaimed.

Advice from a Portrait Artist
For those who want to learn about portrait photography—beyond the technical aspects—Greenfield-Sanders offers a few words of wisdom.

1. “One of the greatest things you can do is sit for a portrait yourself,” he asserts. When you pose for another photographer, you can see what he/she does wrong, and learn from those mistakes. “Always go back to being in the subject’s shoes.”

2. How does he relax his subjects? “Let people express themselves. It will put them at ease,” he replies. He doesn’t often have a lot of time to work with his subjects, but he knows how to make them feel relaxed. He says it’s difficult to explain exactly what to say to your subjects, but it’s important to know what he/she wants. In the years that he’s been photographing people, he says, he developed sensitivity in approaching them. “It’s always about the person,” he says.

3. “I don’t ask people to smile for a portrait sitting unless it’s really necessary,” says Greenfield-Sanders. He says this expression can appear superficial. Also, as he points out, when you look at a person grinning in a portrait, the teeth are usually the brightest part of the picture. In his portraits, he would prefer that the viewer’s eye be drawn to the subject’s eyes, not the mouth. He feels that a subject will assume a natural pose in front of the lens if you allow the person to be him/herself and is not carefully posed. What about the smiling face of Hillary Clinton in profile? “It’s an unusual portrait for me,” he notes.

To see more of Timothy Greenfield-Sanders’ work, log onto www.greenfield-sanders.com.

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