In this second post of an occasional series the Founder and Curator of the United Nations of Photography Grant Scott recounts his experiences working with some of the great photographers of the last century. Here he takes us behind the scenes of a shoot with photographer Matthew Rolston and Demi Moore in New York.
The idea was a simple one and it was Demi’s. Trailer trash to Hollywood star-the dream journey for many but it was also her own story and she was into it in a big way.
We’d spoken about the concept on length on the phone and she’d told me how, as a young girl she had spent hours in front of a full-length mirror pretending to be a star in a glittering gown. The concept was in place and it was one that required the right team. The shoot was to be in New York but I knew that I wanted the prince of Hollywood celebrity portraiture of the time Matthew Rolston on board. A quick phone call secured him for the date and he suggested that we try to get the legend that was Kevin Aucoin to do the hair and make-up. Matthew rang Kevin and explained the concept and we now had our team in place.
Ordinarily on a shoot of this size a ‘full on’ fashion team would then swing into operation, but even in those days budgets were tight. So it was decided that I would style and art direct the shoot with Demi, and I’d take the clothes from London to New York in my personal suitcase. Not only was the budget tight, so was time. The final image would require the appropriate Hollywood glittering gown and we had a Vivienne Westwood dress that fitted the bill stuffed into my case at the last minute with none of the appropriate customs paperwork.
I was only going to be in New York for one day for the shoot but despite this arrived at the studio early as usual. Matthew had booked two identical studios and had his assistant set up exactly the same lighting set up in both the day before so that Kevin could work on Demi under the exact same lighting conditions that she would be photographed under.
I grabbed a coffee and got comfortable on the studio couch waiting for everyone else to arrive. No sooner had I picked up a magazine to read than the big studio door opened and a girl with scruffy hair, no make-up, dressed down and clutching a huge black, leather bag clattered into the room with a big friendly “Hi!”. She asked if anyone else had arrived and slumped down next to me on the couch with her large take out coffee. I explained that we were the first and we began chatting about the traffic, the weather, just normal stuff. She didn’t seem to be Kevin’s usual kind of assistant but I’d always worked with him in Los Angeles, so I gave it no further thought.
The next arrival was Matthew’s first assistant, quickly followed by Matthew, full of cold and covered from nose to toe in a dark blue cashmere overcoat. I could only just see his eyes and the top of his head. But I heard his muffled cry of “Demi!” as the girl next to me stood up to greet him, both with their arms outstretched.
On any shoot like this, I’d never expect to start shooting until 1pm at the earliest. Hair and make-up are a serious business and three to four hours for this are not unusual. The lighting was in place, the camera was in place on its tripod and so Matthew positioned himself on a well upholstered couch no more than 10 feet behind the camera, laid down, covered himself with his coat and went to sleep.
The shoot was going to be shot chronologically starting with trailer trash Demi and finishing with the Hollywood star, building up the hair, make-up and look as the shoot progressed, so when Demi strode into the studio, in rolled up Levi’s, white pumps and a tied at the waist plaid shirt, closely followed by Kevin, Matthew jumped up from his sleep and started to work. It was then that Demi’s professionalism came to the fore. Having asked for a full-length mirror to be placed next to Matthew, she used it to check her every pose, angle and movement, claiming every Polaroid, allowing none to be seen or taken.
Within 10 minutes we had the shot, Demi went to change into the next look and Matthew returned to sleep on the couch. And so the day continued with a short break for lunch. We shot five set-ups in three hours finishing with the Westwood dress (see above). A few hours after the final shot, I was at JFK heading back to London with no Polaroids for my editor.
© Grant Scott 2014
You can read more of Grant Scott’s insights into the world of professional photography in his new book Professional Photography: The New Global Landscape Explained published by Focal Press and available form www.amazon.com