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The Elegant Portraiture of Timothy Greenfield-Sanders:
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.
Diverse Camera Gear
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.
Advice from a Portrait Artist
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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