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Virtual Photoshoots in the Time of Social Distance
Virtual Photoshoots in the Time of Social Distance
by Maddy Wiener
The constant demand for visual content in our time of social distancing has pushed these photographers to work in new ways.
For many photographers, work came to a halt at the beginning of the pandemic. Unable to physically be in the same room as their subjects, they shifted their approach, producing and taking pictures remotely. With limited ways to get new content, publications and even bands are requesting photo shoots via FaceTime and Zoom.
The following photographers have inspired us over the past few months using a range of technology and methods including apps and FaceTime's photo feature.
Their work includes brand photography, feature stories for The New York Times and The Guardian, and thoughtful personal projects meditating on social distance.
Josh-Taylor At His Grandmother’s Home In The Bronx. © Annie Tritt for their New York Times story "How Gig Workers Are Weathering the Virus Shutdown"
Luupe photographer, Annie Tritt grappled with how to make compelling, sensitive work from afar. After their first virtual shoot for a New York Times piece on gig workers impacted by the pandemic, Tritt wanted to disrupt the photo industry with the idea of ownership. Since this first shoot, Tritt’s process has evolved. Instead of using a photo timer app, three people are involved in the shoot: the person in front of the lens, the person taking the photographs, and a person on FaceTime with Tritt to show them the camera. With a virtual photoshoot, there’s much more collaboration between the subjects and the photographer, Tritt tells The Luupe. Whether it was an eight-year-old on the other end of the phone or an adult, Tritt feels these photographs should also belong to them.
© Annie Tritt in collaboration with Kori Dotty for their Guardian story "Raising a theybie: the parent who wants their child to grow up gender-free"
© Rochelle Brock
Rochelle Brock begins her virtual shoots by asking her client to create a mood board of what they want their photos to look like. Her subjects use FaceTime with the back camera, taking advantage of the iPhone's superior quality to computer webcams. This also allows her subjects to easily move around based on her direction. Throughout her process, communication is key.
Brock directs as she normally would and tries to capture the same energy that comes across in non-remote work. These shoots help her reflect on how this method of photography can be accessible to virtually anyone. Brock plans to continue making pictures this way with it even after she can photograph in-person.
© Rochelle Brock
Cut Copy © Tamar Levine
When the Australian band, Cut Copy hired Tamar Levine for a virtual photoshoot, it was up to her to figure out how to shoot them from across the ocean. Test runs with friends proved that the “FaceTime photo” feature produced the most high-quality images. Levine directed them the same way she would for any other shoot, posing the band near a window or door close to natural light. The lack of a crew that usually comes along with a photoshoot allowed her subjects to feel more comfortable and warm up quicker than they would in person. After each shoot, Levine composites images together to create a collage. This opportunity pushed Levine to create something different from her usual work. In the future, she plans to push this idea even further.
© Tamar Levine
Domenique Ashanti photographed over Facetime by Jass Durhal
Jass Durhal was initially skeptical about the limitations of remote photography. But a recent shoot in which some of the team was unavailable at the last minute pushed the Luupe photographer to use Facetime to get the job done. Durhal was surprised by the quality and now says she appreciates the app for its ability to help build intimacy with her subjects and challenge her creative ways of thinking. After this radical change of heart, Durhal produced the following video tutorial to help other photographers make their virtual photoshoots successful. Learn more about Jass' inspiring work here.
Behind-the-scenes photograph of a remote portrait session with industrial engineer Ti Chang in San Francisco and portrait photographer Catalina Kulczar in Brooklyn, New York. Ti's partner's hand is seen holding Ti's phone while Catalina gives both of them directions to create portraits using a reflective surface.
Having collaborated on few photoshoots together before, Catalina Kulczar decided to virtually photograph Co-Founder and VP of Design at Crave, Ti Chang from across the country. Kulczar went about the shoot just as she would any other - but this time, virtually. Chang sent her photos of wardrobe and accessories a few days before, along with a walkthrough video of the space she planned to be in.
Kulczar tried three different methods for the virtual shoot. First, she photographed Chang via Zoom. Next, she tried using the FaceTime photo feature. Finally, inspired by Annie Tritt, Kulczar used the app Photo Timer+. Chang set up her phone with the front-facing camera towards her and the app took photographs every few seconds. Kulczar felt this method worked most effectively. Her biggest advice for a virtual photoshoot: communicate clearly and be patient.
Environmental portraits of industrial engineer Ti Chang in her San Francisco home. Photographed remotely from Catalina Kulczar's studio in NYC via iPhone and Photo Timer + app.
Dayton Satterlee photographed over Facetime by Jessica Chou
Virtual photoshoots help Jessica Chou build an emotional connection with those in front of her remote gaze. Communicating with her subjects through the small square on FaceTime increases intimacy and collaboration and limits distractions. Similar to other photographers, Chou works closely with her subjects on lighting and direction. Vocalizing her vision and creative process makes this digital connection more significant, she says. Chou plans on continuing to document people’s lives during these uncertain times for the duration of the quarantine.
Michelle Groskopf and Sacha Tivetsky photographed over Facetime by Jessica Chou
Payton Simone photographed for Mae Jones Magazine by Shanna Fisher. Creative direction by Kristen Turner
After a tour of her subject’s home, Shanna Fisher selects the sunniest place with the best internet connection to have her FaceTime photoshoot. She photographs her computer screen using the FaceTime photo feature. The people in her photographs vary from close friends to Rudy Pankow, best known for his role on the popular Netflix series Outer Banks. Fisher recommends starting with people you know and creating mood boards to help subjects understand the types of photos you want to create. Photographing her subjects virtually gives viewers a removed, yet personal glimpse into the subject’s home lives.
Outer Banks' Rudy Pankow photographed by Shanna Fisher for The Daily Shuffle
Jackie Russo Jaquez
Left: Idris, Bkln.
Right: Jesus, Mexico City. © Jackie Russo Jaquez
In her latest series "Isolation Portraits," Jackie Russo Jacquez sets up a call on her laptop using Zoom, Facetime, Skype, or google hangouts, and then makes a still life photograph. By talking to her subjects about their quarantine experience, Russo finds she is able to capture their emotion and build a relationship with them, even from a distance. For Russo, while it may seem like a still life prop, the black fabric backdrop is a grounding element, reminding us that we’re still looking at a portrait.
Left: Claudio, Milan. Right: Dorothy, Maryland. © Jackie Russo Jaquez
© Kelly Burgess
A fan of her wedding photography for the past seven years, a friend connected Kelly Burgess with another friend to photograph their elopement via Zoom. From her rural home in Vermont, Burgess set up her computer and tripod to photograph the couple in Rhode Island. Not being physically present allowed the couple to interact naturally while Burgess sought out genuine moments between the two from hundreds of miles away. From an iPhone to a computer screen to Burgess’s camera, the images have a low-fi 1970s Kodachrome vibe - often with an accidental double-exposure in the mix.
"These distortions and imperfections speak to our current moment," says Burgess. For the photographer, not having complete control over what she sees caused her to question who can claim authorship over each photo. Photographing the elopement inspired her to launch a new conceptual project photographing unsecured webcams, pushing the limits of how she defines her practice.
© Kelly Burgess
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