The light Albert Watson shapes04 September, 2017
Albert Watson is one of the photographic industry’s most successful image creators with a body of work that’s as celebrated as it is extensive. His fashion and portrait work has graced the pages of the world’s most influential magazines for the best part of five decades and in that time, he has photographed countless iconic figures, celebrities and supermodels.
The latest in that long line is the bad boy of ballet Sergei Polunin, who at the age of 19 became the London Royal Ballet’s youngest ever principal and a dancer credited with bringing a refreshing edginess to his craft. In many quarters, he has been hailed as the greatest dancer of his generation.
Both artists came together this summer in New York for a remarkable day’s shoot where Albert set about capturing Sergei’s astonishing physicality. Albert set out to create what he called ‘a portrait in movement.’ Sergei frozen at the climax of his jump. To achieve this Albert worked with four Profoto Pro-10’s.
The Pro-10 is Profoto’s flagship flash with a unique combination of power and speed. It has an incredibly short flash duration of 1/80,000th of a second and remarkably, both flash duration and recycling time remain significantly shorter than any other generator on the market higher up the power scale. The perfect tool then to assist Albert in capturing his hero shot.
Because for Albert light has been at the center of every image he has created since the start of his career. For him the key word is “simplicity.” To start simply and then take a journey, experimenting, shifting and shaping light until he gets exactly the effect he wants.
Albert put it like this: “Sometimes it’s not a distinct road to the final shot. You don’t know until you get there.”
Influenced by the art of Michelangelo and Caravaggio Albert experimented with different fabrics and backdrops before finally settling on Sergei leaping through black chiffon. This was achieved by assistants releasing the fabric from ladders and Sergei timing his jump to perfection – and the four Pro-10’s were on hand to ensure that there was no chance of that perfect moment being missed.
The resulting image was quintessentially Albert Watson. Sergei captured at the zenith of his balletic leap enveloped in fine black chiffon. But most of all it was a masterclass in light shaping – painterly and yet utterly contemporary.
Beyond capturing the lead portrait in motion, Albert further demonstrated his masterly of light in capturing two other portraits that Sergei felt resembled modern sculptures. In his words, “You want to be in that picture.”
At the end of the day Albert did what Albert has done throughout his long and storied career, shaping light in his unique way, he created extraordinary imagery that captured the very essence of this extraordinary dancer – and with the Pro-10, Profoto were proud to play a part in it.