David Hyde Pierce reminds me of a modern day Buster Keaton. He can do more than a raised eyebrow than most physical comedians can do with their entire body. A group of David Hyde Pierce fans tracked me down so I promised to tell a the story behind the the time I shot of David. I photographed David in Beverly Hills during Oscar Week for the ART & SOUL book shot in partnership with The Creative Coalition and Sony. The book pairs portraits of celebrities with their hand-written testimonials about the importance of the arts. The book was taken to the White House and Congress in May 2009 to successfully advocate for increased funding for the arts and arts education.
I’ve just wrapped a three-day shoot at Haven House in Beverly Hills photographing portraits of celebrities with The Creative Coalition during Oscar Week thanks to the generous sponsorship of Sony and Hachette Filipacchi Media.
Our crew included my wife Fazia who always makes certain everyone looked fabulous on our shoots, Kayla Lindquist, Director of Sony’s Artisans of Imagery program, produced the shoot and made certain even the smallest detail was under control, Matthew Schulert, our fabulous digital tech from Splashlight never missed a beat through 5,370 exposures, Joel Warren and Eddie Tricomi and over a dozen hair and make-up artists from Warren-Tricomi.
We photographed 68 celebrities over a three-day period in Los Angeles where we shot 5,370 exposures with over 200 gigs of raw images using Sony’s a900 camera. That’s a great test of the durability and quality of a camera. The a900 never missed a beat.
The lenses are quite simply the sharpest lenses I’ve ever used. I love all of Sony’s Zeiss glass, but I’m becoming particularly fond of Sony’s Zeiss 24-70/2.8. I was able to shoot very quickly on this project using that lens to shoot 90% of the images for the book. This lens is sharper than prime lenses in that range and it absolutely blows away the competition. The remaining images for the book were shot with Sony’s Zeiss 85/1.4 that I kept mounted on second a900 body.
When you imagine shooting in a Beverly Hills mansion, you can only envision big massive rooms. Yet our shoot was relegated to a less than opulent 9×14′ maid’s quarters.
Since the biggest part of photography is problem solving, we had to find a way to make it work. I decided to make our small pace even cozier by wrapping the entire set in black. Normally, the idea of using a DSLR to shoot celebrities dressed in black against a black background is a recipe for disaster. Other DSLR tend to block up in the shadows, but one of the things I love about the a900 is that it holds unbelievable detail in the shadows, so I was confident we could pull it off.
Highlights included Kerry Washington and Tichina Arnold fighting it out for bragging rights in a pose-off. For the record, in situations like that, it’s actually the photographer who wins.
Speaking of posing, celebrity stylist Philip Bloch might very well still be posing in front of the camera if they hadn’t threatened to turn the power off on us.
My thanks to all of the celebrities who took part…Alfre Woodard, Alyssa Milano, Amy Collins, Barry Bostwick, Benji Schwimmer, Chris Mann, Damian Bichir, Dana Delany, Daniel Stern, David Hyde Pierce, DeRay Davis, Oscar-winning writer/producer Dustin Lance Black, Fisher Stevens, Frances Fisher, Gilles Marini, Gina Gershon, Harry Hamlin, James Denton, Jamie Kennedy, Jason Ritter, Jeannine Kaspar, Jeffrey Ross, Kerry Washington, Kim Kardashian, Kyson Lee, Mary Murphy, Paula Abdul, Paul Hipp, Robert Davi, Sharon Lawrence, Stephen Collins, Syd Butler, Tamala Jones, Taraji P. Henson, Tichina Arnold, Tim Daly, Wendie Malick, Vik Sahay, Zoey Deschanel, Celebrity Stylists Philip Bloch, Joel Warren, Edward Tricomi, Producer Tom Molloy, Gay-rights activist Cleve Jones, WWE Wrestlers Cody Rhodes, John Morrison, Kofi Kingston, Ted DiBiase, Jr., The Miz and WWE Divas Kelly Kelly, Maria Kanellis, Maryse Ouellet and Melina Perez.
Quincy Jones has suggested that it might be an opportune time to lobby President Barak Obama to appoint a Secretary of the Arts. While many other countries have had Ministers of Art or Culture for centuries, the United States has never created such a position. This country needs the arts–now more than ever.