The Northerners Exhibition, UK based portrait photographer Rory Lewis’s personal project, is a collection of portraits from a cross section of Northern Celebrities: sports personalities, actors and politicians. In this article we get to follow Rory behind the scenes for one of the photo shoots, this one with famous actor Patrick Stewart.
Rory Lewis passion for shooting actors and celebrities started with his Northerners Exhibition in 2012; his first major portraiture project. The whole theme of the project was to photograph actors and celebrities that came from the same area as Rory himself, the North of UK.
“I began to write letters to the agents of all the actors and celebrities I wanted to include in the project. My first success was a portrait sitting with actor David Warner. After this, more followed as I was able to gain more credibility and use the images to attract more celebrities to get on board. This also includes Sir Patrick Stewart who comes originally from Yorkshire.”, says Rory.
On the day of the photo shoot, Rory arrived early at Neo Studios in Manhattan to setup the studio for the photo shoot. “Sir Patrick arrived, and I could scarcely believe it; “in my head I kept saying Captain Picard is in the studio!” I shook hands with Patrick and after a little sit down I explained my ideas for the portrait. It’s simply amazing to meet someone in person that you have seen on screen for years and realize, “he really is that guy.”, Rory explains.
“I have been a closet Trekkie since I first watched Star Trek the Next Generation in 1989, and it was an amazing experience to work with Sir Patrick on the ‘Northerners’ Project. ”
“I wanted to bring out the real Patrick in my images. I like to keep my portrait sittings as relaxed as possible, at first speaking with the sitter about themselves, then about their latest news and projects. This allows me to get to know them and what they are about. I then start to take a few frames to find out the sitters best facial positions and the appropriate height for the camera, and after my adjustments I go to work. The session lasted for around 30 mins and in that time, I was able to capture some wonderful frames.”, says Rory.
“Actors are amazing to photograph. They are experts at creating emotions and facial expressions, and this is what portraiture is all about.”, he says
To light his portraits of Sir Patrick Stewart, Rory set up two Profoto D4 2400 Air, equipped with Umbrella Shallow White M. One was used to light the foreground and the other to light the background of the subject. A black poly board was used to the side in order to create definition.
“Profoto Acute D4 Flash Heads are tough and durable, temperature controlled and highly versatile for light shaping. Profoto delivers every time and so far has never let me down on a photo shoot”, says Rory.
“I wanted to shoot these images low key, using a black backdrop. This makes the portrait the centre of attention. The black color makes them look at the lighting of the portrait rather than the brightness of the backdrop.”
“My style has been described as simplistic, I aim to hold the viewer in my images, to gaze into the eyes of the subject and almost guess their thoughts and emotions. I only ask for simple clothing, and simple expressions and eye contact with the camera.”, he continues.
With this project, Rory hopes to raise money through the exhibition for UNICEF, to help children all over the world in need of support, water, food, medical care and education.
If you want to learn more about the project, have a look here:
Rory recently released his first book “Portraitist” – For more info, click here