Monday, July 21, 2008

when subjects disagree

I was just in Salt Lake to shoot a job for Outside Magazine. The story was about a guy that runs a gym there for elite athletes, but instead of riding stationary bikes and running on treadmills, they were flipping tractor tires and hauling massive piles of log chain. The workout looked absolutely excruciating. Professional ultimate fighters were brought to their knees (or I should say brought themselves to their knees.)

I needed to come up with a portrait of the Gym's founder, and I wanted to find a way to incorporate some sort of grueling endurance test into the portrait shoot. There are some facial expressions that you just can't get any other way.

They had this really heavy (35 lbs.) sword from an old trade show, and I wanted him to hold it for as long as he possibly could while I shot his portrait. It was impossible to hold up with one hand, and very difficult with two. Once he started to show signs of fatigue, I'd start shooting. Hopefully the image would say something about him and his fondness for pushing through pain in order to achieve a heightened level of fitness.

I ran this idea by him and he shot it down immediately. It turns out he'd been in a shoot years ago where they had him dressed like the grim reaper, standing in a puddle of blood, wielding an ice ax. He didn't like how that shot turned out, and didn't like hearing about it afterwards from people that saw the image in print.

I took time to explain why I liked my idea, and how I wanted to make an image that said something about him. He heard me out, but in the end, held his ground, and we did something else that turned out well (it's not in print yet, so I can't share it).

I was fine with his refusal, although it was a bummer that another photographer's idea from years back affected my shoot. More important is that I took the time to explain my idea, and that he took the time to listen.

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