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Design Director: David Curcurito
Photo Director: Michael Norseng
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Heidi: How did the idea to interpret the dreams come about? did it come from the magazine?
Perou: David Curcurito (creative director at Esquire) suggested to me that I might discuss my ideas for the shoot with Ryan, as Ryan also had some ideas for the shoot.
Where you given the story first and then did you and Ryan talked?
Sometimes I’m asked to email over some rough sketches or discuss with someone’s PR what I have in mind, but it’s unusual for me to have a two way conversation with someone before I photograph them for a magazine. There was more pre-production discussion before this shoot than any other I’ve done but that was great because I think all the best portraits of people are collaborations. I was a little concerned that I wouldn’t be able to describe eloquently enough what I wanted to do, as I’m better with pictures than words. I called Ryan on his cell. he was in LA and I was in London.
I said ‘I hear you’ve got some ideas.’ ‘I’ve got one idea’ , he said, ‘…I keep having this recurring dream where everyone around me is a skeleton’
How would you describe Ryan’s dreams?
Ryan’s dream wasn’t too complicated, but Ryan’s own interpretation of his dream as a direction for the photos was quite complex and developed as we were discussing it. I was keen not to do something with real skeletons because as an icon (most) people can’t take them seriously. So we moved on from Ryan surrounded by real skeletons in various scenarios to Ryan with a woman representing the skeletons of his dreams: something like a Styx from greek mythology coming out of the shadows. I think part of what works in this is that me and Ryan had very different approaches to the shoot: he was very keen on doing a complete story with a beginning, middle and end: fully researched and scripted in advance. I knew we had to do a clean cover and then had 4 or 5 images inside the magazine, at most and Esquire aren’t really into full-on, photo-illustrations with tons of post-production. I wanted to do some iconic pictures of a movie star based loosely around an idea he had. I personally think the best ideas are often the simplest. I remember saying to Ryan, think of me like an improvise director: I’ll get the cast together and the location and we’ll freestyle around our idea: that’s how I work. If we try and script everything exactly, we’ll lose out on some magic and any spontaneous moments that happen.
Which is your favorite image?
My favorite picture from the shoot is the closer shot of Ryan nuzzling into Veronica’s neck. As well as shooting the stills for the cover feature of the magazine, I also shoot video for the moving covers on the ipad edition of Esquire. The idea for two Ryan’s on the ipad cover was all his and I think it works really well: a really simple, effective idea.
What was the most interesting thing that happened on the shoot?
It was a hard day at the office. Mainly because everything had to be discussed in so much detail before each shot, before the shoot and during the shoot: the motivation had to be right: it had to make sense. My day was made much easier by the lovely Veronica throwing cheeky winks my way. I thought it was amusing that Veronica wasn’t really into the last shot of the day when she had to repeatedly kiss Ryan.
What kind of direction where you giving to the subjects on set?
Veronica, the model was Brazilian and I had been under the impression that she didn’t speak much English. I was being my usual flirtatious with the ladies self, maybe more so than usual. It wasn’t till the end of the shoot that I realized she been understanding more than I’d assumed.
How long did that set take to build and where in NY did you shoot?
we shot on location in warehouse studio called ‘the 1896’ there was no real set building as such: just a bit of proppage.
Who did the body painting? and how long did that take?
Genius Will Lemon did the body painting. I have a vague recollection that it took him and his two assistants about 8hrs. Veronica stood the whole time: she was great.