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Behind the Scenes of Hollywood Reporter’s Pandemic-Era Photo Shoots


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Testing, distancing, masking — and that’s if it’s in person,” says photographer Austin Hargrave (pictured), who shot THR‘s Toronto Film Festival portfolio (among others) during quarantine. “Some virtual shoots feel like working at an IT help desk, helping talent with internet problems, but we’ve gotten through it each time.” More than simply “gotten through,” he and fellow THR photographers in fact have safely produced stunning, often effortless-seeming images under the most trying circumstances. Says fellow photographer Alexandra Gavillet: “This moment has shown us that regardless of your outgrown eyebrows, your DIY funky nails or your grown-out roots, glamour truly does come from the confidence within and extends outward to how you make other people feel when they’re around you. We’re all finding beauty in self-preservation during this unprecedented time.”

1. Alexandra Gavillet, who photographed Amandla Stenberg in May in Los Angeles, says: “The pandemic has made crews and talent realize the value of the human connection. Every opportunity we have to create safely is now more cherished because being with people IRL has become so limited.”

Amandla StenbergAmandla Stenberg being photographed

2 .”After everything completely shut down in March, which was scary, I wasn’t sure when or how shoots would start back up, so I started shooting portraits of flowers because I was so bored and needed to get out some creative energy,” says Sami Drasin, pictured here on a shoot with Glenn Close in December in Bozeman, Montana. “When things started picking up again, the crews had to be minimal, so it was usually just me or me and an assistant in an outdoor space somewhere. It reminded me of when I first started shooting and going back to the basics.”

Glenn CloseGlenn Close being photographed

3. “I have been amazed at how open actors are to figuring it out and making it work,” says Frank Ockenfels 3, who diagrammed his virtual sessions with Aaron Sorkin and the Trial of the Chicago 7 stars in a far-flung shoot (Sorkin, Sacha Baron Cohen and Ockenfels were in L.A., Jeremy Strong in New York, Eddie Redmayne in London, and Yahya Abdul-Mateen II in Berlin). “When I shot Sacha, I was assisted by his wife, Isla Fisher, who found a wall in the house, set up the lights and camera and styled him, all while feeding their kids breakfast — truly one of my favorite new assistants.”

Diagram of photo shoot set up next to photo of the finished cover for The Trail of the Chicago 7 film 2020

4. “My days are also longer now. My prep is more detailed and so is my arrival back home — being thorough with disinfecting takes up time,” says Jai Lennard, who photographed Regina King remotely in December in Los Angeles after first sending her a lighting kit and a detailed guide on setup. “I think shooting remotely has been a huge shift. In this way, I’ve chosen to do less directing in those situations and allow music to interpret a mood rather than me yelling directions through a computer. It can seem weird but has been a lot of fun.”

Regina KingPhotographer Jai Lennard going through a photo shoot set up for Regina King

5. “Apart from the devastating real-world problems of COVID, the creative process of working during COVID has been a fruitful learning experience, from the very stripped-down basic driveway-garden shoots to directing 16 virtual photo shoots in one day in five countries over the internet [for the Toronto Film Festival portfolio],” says Austin Hargrave, who shot Eli Goree at the Paramour Mansion in Silver Lake in September as part of THR‘s TIFF portfolio. “But the main takeaway has been how open and collaborative all the subjects (and their family members!) have been, even in the middle of the darkest times.”

Eli GoreeBehind the scenes of Eli Goree being photographed

This story first appeared in the March 18 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. Click here to subscribe.

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