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April 20, 2014

Brigitte Lacombe: Shadowing Hollywood

The French Photographer Captures On-Set Moments with Joaquin Phoenix and Marion Cotillard

Palme d'Or-nominated director James Gray invited Tinseltown’s favorite photographer Brigitte Lacombe to document the atmospheric off-camera moments of some Hollywood heavyweights for his 1920s-set epic The Immigrant. The plot sees Polish native Ewa (Marion Cotillard) lured by an illicit New Yorker (Joaquin Phoenix) who forces her into prostitution, before being rescued by his worldly magician cousin, Orlando (Jeremy Renner). Lacombe, who recently worked on the set of Martin Scorsese's The Wolf of Wall Street and Spike Jonze’s Her, prefers to remain in the background, capturing the actors in the intensity of a fleeting exchange. The NOWNESS regular's first break came at the 1975 Cannes Festival when she met Dustin Hoffman and became the set photographer for All the President’s Men. She has since captured some of the greatest actors in cinema—from Meryl Streep to Al Pacino, Jack Nicholson and Viggo Mortensen—but this latest film marks her first meeting with French beauty Marion Cotillard. Ahead of the film’s release next month, Lacombe talks meeting her subjects halfway.  

What was the most interesting thing about working on this particular set?
Brigitte Lacombe:
I have always wanted to photograph Marion Cotillard because she’s quite fascinating. I don’t know her at all but she’s good in every single movie I’ve seen. I always find her absolutely true emotionally—there is never a false note. I also photographed Joaquin Phoenix in a completely different mood than on the set of Spike Jonze’s Her, it was like meeting a different person. He’s really interested in the work and is incredibly intense and focused. That’s what great actors are like.

You like to shoot your portraits with very few props, artificial lights or set-ups. How does that change when you are shooting film characters?
I always keep a minimum of people around. The ideal thing is to be by myself with the assistant. That’s the best way for me to make a portrait. The subjects relate to one person, not a group. When working on a film you want to do something that is close to the film. You have to respect the film as much as possible. In this case I lit it in a similar fashion to the scenes they were in. I wanted to make very classic portraits with one source of light—very stark, simple.  

You are known for the intensity of your portraits. How does the photographic portrait capture the subject?
What I do is very far from concepts and ideas. I want to work in collaboration with the person I photograph, more than give my take on them. I want the person to meet me halfway. I don’t want to steal anything; I want a true classic portrait with the person wanting to be there. It’s about being 100% present and that I’m able to do—it’s easier to achieve if you’re not speaking.

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Shorts on Sundays: The Repton

Ray Winstone Revisits His Old Boxing Club with Director Alasdair McLellan to Launch Season Two

Ray Winstone reminisces under a wall of heroes and former sparring partners in the first installment of Shorts on Sundays, Season Two. Directed by leading fashion photographer Alasdair McLellan, today’s evocative film stars the rogue veteran of Scum, Nil by Mouth and Sexy Beast, who tells stories about old haunt the Repton Boxing Club to the establishment’s current star, Ryan Pickard, who also wrote the screenplay. “My dad boxed, my grandpa boxed and everyone where I lived in the East End was involved in boxing in some way,” says Winstone, who was awarded the club’s coveted John H. Stracey award after winning all 13 fights in his first senior year at 17, retiring soon after as his acting career kicked off. “You would meet kids from all walks of life,” says the actor of his influential early days. “Repton boys have gone on to become government officials in Africa, and photographers and writers. It gave you the confidence to mix and learn how to behave socially—it was my education.”

Do you ever daydream about a parallel universe where you have achieved accolades in boxing instead of acting?
Ray Winstone:
“No, I did everything I wanted to do in boxing. I was a lucky boy, as I had another choice and found something I could do. I was never good enough or dedicated enough to be a professional. We had three world champions while I was around but the most important thing for me is the boys who come through that club and take something away with them, in the form of a discipline and social behavior.

Do you think that is the legacy of the Repton?
Yes. I wasn’t deprived but there were plenty of kids who were. There were a lot of people who through boxing aren’t in prison today. They found something else to do and stayed off the streets.

Are you quite surprised it’s survived this long?
I think it’ll last forever; it would be a travesty if something like the Repton collapses. People would have nowhere to go. I can’t imagine the area without it. The boss Mark Newman is sorting out the club’s own clothes line that will put some money in and hopefully keep it going.

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Creature Comforts

Step Inside Shanghai’s Luxury Animal Emporium

With a five-star dog hotel, professional grooming parlors and hair-coloring centers, Pet Zoo Mega Store is introducing Shanghai’s canine community to a world of unforeseen luxury. Photographer Jonathan Browning, a regular for Der Spiegel, The New York Times and Financial Times, takes us behind the third floor complex, over 21,000 square feet, to document the bizarre pedigree pampering, which includes natural mud massage spas and dog ‘Jacuzzis.’ “The grooming center is all open-plan, with glass walls, so that the owners can watch in confidence during their animals' spa treatment,” explains Browning of the doted-over pooches. “With Shanghai being the hottest it’s been in 140 years, the spa's ‘summer coat haircut’ has proved popular; essentially a short shave all over the body except for the head, ears and tail.”

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