British Photographer Chris Floyd, 43, has been primarily shooting portraits since 1992. More recently, he joined the growing number of still photographers embracing video—er, filmmaking. His current project, “The Way I Dress,” grew out of a series of three fashion profiles he put together for the Sunday Times of London. The series features notable men dressing themselves as they ruminate on the subject of style. “If you create the space,” says Floyd, “the time you spend getting dressed could be the most reflective of your day.”
Floyd brought his movies to former British Esquire editor Jeremy Langmead, who’d recently been poached by the popular online women’s fashion retailer Net-a-Porter to launch their new men’s site Mr. Porter. “I took the three films with me on an iPad,” says Floyd. “We watched them through and he said, ‘Yeah, great. Let’s do six.’”
Grayson: So What is your background as a photographer?
Chris: If I’m known for anything it’s for doing portraiture. It’s very difficult in this day and age to do lots of different things. I like reportage, portraiture, even architecture. But [creative directors] want to be able to put you in a box and say, This guy does portraits, and that guys shoots ice cream, and this guy does still life.
What’s your production process?
Those were with a Canon 5D. I shot three in London and three in New York. It’s me a couple of a assistants, and that’s kind of it. One of the things I’m confident about is my ability to light. So I light the space and then the guy comes along, and I explain what we’re doing. The thing you have to explain more than anything is that he’s going to have to get dressed and undressed about ten times.
So you do the whole thing with one camera?
The budget is pretty good, but it’s not enough to do it with two cameras. I don’t have any qualms about stating that I’m quite new to all this, so it’s a learning process. I would rather learn it slowly and thoroughly than try and rush it.
How do you light your scenes?
I use HMIs and gels—nothing crazy—just enough to warm them up or cool them down. I move things around until it feels right. For me, it’s very instinctual. It’s kind of like finding a woman that you love. I play around with it and then—Yeah, this feels right. I want to spend some time with her.
How are you moving the camera in these shots?
With nearly all of them, I used a jib. I have no idea what kind it is, actually. You can pan and tilt and waive it around. I think we needed a bigger one, though. There were a couple of moments where I wanted to do very slow movements, and it wasn’t quite big enough and heavy enough to move gracefully.
How do you handle your post production?
I have an editor here in London who’s got a lot of experience. The thing I like about these movies perhaps more than anything is the collaborative nature of filmmaking. It’s the one thing that’s completely different from being a still photographer. In filmmaking, you have to give yourself up to the process. The learning curve is quite steep. Stills and motion share the same alphabet, but the language is different. You look at certain points in the process and say, Oh I understand what’s going on here but it’s a bit different than what I’m used to so I’d better shut up and listen to the guy who does know what he’s doing. I think you have to surrender your ego if you want to get better at it.
What about sound?
Pay attention to it. There’s nothing more frustrating than having a great take with shoddy sound that you can’t use. We do record the ambient sound of the guy getting dressed, but the rest of it is a voiceover. I use a Sennheiser…something, plugged into the 5D. The voiceovers I record separately on a recorder. I talk to the subject for about 20 minutes. Then I go off and do the sound edit, which I kind of do on my own. I use a very basic program that’s free called Audacity. I spend about a day doing that. It makes you go back to the pictures again and look at them in a new way.
The good thing that’s come out of this Mr. Porter project is they’ve asked me to do something else, now. I can’t say what it is, yet, but it’s really exciting. They’re great to work for. They’re far less hands-on than if I were doing the equivalent gig for a magazine. It’s like, Here’s the money; go away and don’t come back until it’s done.