INTERVIEW: Film Stills & Rock Photographer - Patrick Harbron - TIFF Feature
House of Cards- Kevin Spacey as Frank Underwood - Patrick Harbron/Netflix © Knight Takes King Productions, LLC.
In the spirit of TIFF 2014, we decided share new perspective on photography, by interviewing one of our photographers, Patrick Harbron.
Interview by Courtney Lee, Gallery Manager
Patrick Harbron has made a name for himself as a leading portrait photographer, specializing in music and entertainment. He has captured artists like The Rolling Stones, Bruce Springsteen, Deborah Harry, Eric Clapton and Ray Charles, among many others. Over the years his body of work expanded to film where he has made many stunning images from shows like House of Cards, Boardwalk Empire, Tyrant, The Good Wife and The Americans.
Thank you Patrick for taking time out of your busy schedule for speaking with us today.
WHAT ARE YOU WORKING ON CURRENTLY?
I am currently working on a number of network television projects in New York.
My assignments will be for most of the programs shooting here. Summer and fall are busy times as new programs start and existing shows continue subsequent seasons. Soon, I will start on a new show coming up that is all about music, a perfect fit for me. My work has been mostly TV which is great for the variety of different projects. Film projects are great because you are growing with the same project day to day. It is always an exciting time.
I also took time this summer to work on two archives of personal work, one, of my music photography and the other a collection of swimming pool photos which I add to all the time. I also teach at the International Center of Photography and the summer lighting class always gives me the boost of a fresh perspective on my own work.
WHAT WERE THE SEQUENCE OF EVENTS LEADING UP TO BECOMING FILM STILLS PHOTOGRAPHER?
I started as a rock and roll photographer and during that time I was approached by a client who was also a film publicist. He suggested the similarities between the two kinds of work and asked me if I would be interested in working in film. I always did other kinds of photography from editorial to advertising but film and TV continues to be a big part of my work.
Christina Hendricks- Patrick Harbron/ABC © American Broadcasting Companies, Inc.
BEING ON SET MUST BE VERY DIFFERENT THAN IN A PIT OR ON STAGE - ARE THERE ANY SIMILARITIES BETWEEN THE TWO STYLES OF SHOOTING? DO YOU HAVE A PREFERENCE?
The unit work on a film set is quite controlled. The lighting, camera angles, number of shots and the framing are mostly conceived ahead of time. The unit photographer’s work is intended to publicize and advertise the film or show. When they come to set they have to find opportunities to capture unique images.
The repetition of takes gives you a bit of an edge to get an image you may not have captured on an earlier pass. Despite the direction I am given before a shoot, the reality of a shooting situation may be different than it was in the planning stage. I am relied upon to be inventive and to find solutions. The work on set is much more personal and interactive with the actor than it is in front of a rock stage.
Shooting live rock and roll is predominantly reportage. It’s there, it happens and you get it or you don’t.
WHAT IS A TYPICAL DAY LIKE ON SET?
A typical day on set involves planning my shots, shooting sometimes editing. As the scene is rehearsed I will watch to see where I might find my best shot. I may talk with the camera operator or DP to discuss the scene and what I hope to accomplish. I have to work seamlessly with many people on set to get my work done properly. Apparently I drink way too much coffee.
IS THERE MUCH CREATIVE FREEDOM WITH STILLS OR ARE YOU AT THE MERCY OF THE NETWORKS/DIRECTOR?
I have a fair amount of creative license but I work under the direction of a photo editor and or publicist to create photographs to promote the show or film.
WHAT KIND OF PERSONALITY TRAITS SUIT THE LIFE OF A FILM STILLS PHOTOGRAPHER?
You must able to get along with all kinds of people. Being up beat and positive goes a long way to spending long, productive days working with many personalities. As you negotiate the set you must also be aware of the jobs other people have to do. Sometimes just getting out of the way will be appreciated.
WHAT TV SHOWS DO YOU WATCH? IS THERE A SHOW YOU WOULD LOVE TO WORK ON?
I do watch a lot of TV. Many people on set do even though we usually have to DVR the programming to do so. I love dramas like Justified, Longmire, House of Cards, Top of The Lake and The Bridge to name a few. Streaming now makes it so easy to find not just U.S. but international programming and films.
Boardwalk Empire-Steve Buscemi as Nucky Thompson-Patrick Harbron/HBO © Home Box Office
I’m also a big comedy fan so it was a pleasure to work on Robin Williams' last concert film, ‘Weapons of Self-Destruction’ for HBO.
Considering a project I would like to work on, I’m lucky to get great assignments and some of the very jobs I’m on now help fulfill my wish list. I will say that two film makers I have always wanted to work with are Martin Scorcese and Woody Allen.
WHAT PHOTOGRAPHERS ARE YOU INTERESTED IN CURRENTLY? DO YOU HAVE ANY FAVOURITES?
I get a great many blogs and posts related to all kinds of photography and I enjoy the work of a wide selection of photographers who create images of architecture, landscape, portraiture and reportage. I love the recent work of Sebastio Salgado. Stunning. I really like Gregory Crewdson’s cinematic still sets, Gillian Laub’s portraits and I just discovered the architectural photographer, Frederic Chaubin. I never get tired of looking at the photography of Julius Schulman, Arnold Newman, or one of my favorite influences, Norman Seeff. Just when people say there is nothing new in photography you find someone like Seth Casteel and his amazing portraits of dogs diving into swimming pools. A lot of my friends are great photographers and there is so much great work out there picking just a few favorites is pretty tough.
Patrick Harbron - © 2014 All Rights Reserved
Patrick is currently working on network TV projects in New York for the 2014-2015 season, a Grateful Dead live disc, two new book projects and his recently released rock and roll website.