I had the recent pleasure of getting an assignment from Wired Magazine that took me back to the good old days of no-budget editorial photography. I know that photographers talk about the eighties and nineties as the glory days of big budgets and bottomless caviar but not for a young shooter who was eager for any commission. (I was shocked, at five years into my full-time shooting career, to find that one could actually hire assistants, and bill expenses separately from fee.)
To be fair to Photo Editor Carrie Levy (who is so awesome in so many ways that I’ll have to write a whole blog post about her later) she was clear about our budget parameters from the get-go, and it was just a half page usage.
I’m always pleased when a photo editor requests ideas for the shoot, and on the early side. My list was not long, but it was varied. Wired was featuring Seth MacFarlane as he had a movie coming out, Ted, and was producing a revisiting to Cosmos, the Carl Sagan science show of the early eighties. I suggested having him trying to get a to-scale model of Uranus into his anus, but my favorite idea was having Seth beating up Carl Sagan.
Carrie was first amused, and then a little horrified that I wasn’t kidding. We went with Seth in an astronaut suit in the end, which was also fine, if not dirty or violent. The trick then came to getting the suit rental to fit within our budget.
Carrie arranged for the rental from Global Effects and I picked it up the morning of the shoot. We didn’t have the budget for a prop stylist so not only was I doing the pick ups and drop offs, I was also to be dressing Mr. MacFarlane. I anticipated an awkward moment or two as I slipped one of the wealthiest people in show business into an ill fitting costume but grew to expect real tension when the folks at the rental house explained that it would likely take 20 minutes to dress our subject. My contact there then took me to the back and step-by-step dressed me in the astronaut costume.
It was fun to learn about doing this (and I’ve always felt bonded to the prop and set dept folks) but the dual role of valet and photographer is not an easy fit. I feel that I function best with celebrities when I can create a little distance on set, and that doesn’t usually involve helping them put their pants on.
In the end Seth was excited about the space suit so he was cool about me dressing him and I was even able to be my usual bossy self after our moment of intimacy.