Allan Morgan, Sarah Rodgers, Humphrey Bogart, Juliet StevensonThursday, July 13, 2006
In the early 90s I had the luck to photograph British actress Juliet Stevenson in the Sun Room of the Vancouver Hotel. While it is obvious to most people that actors can act, we photographers are known for not being too swift. I was astounded how Ms Stevenson could change from one expression to another (after my instructions) and I have never forgotten the lesson. Fortunately there are other photographers, like Latvian born Philippe Halsman who knew this and wrote about it eloquently: From Halsman - Portraits, Harry N/ Abrams, Inc. New York, 1983:
I was standing on the dock waiting for Bogart. Far out on the sea I could see him alone in a small sailboat and I waved. When he noticed me his boat sailed toward me with such speed that I expected it to crash against the dock. But at the last moment Bogart suddenly veered it 90 degrees and the boat stopped in front of me.
Bogart leaped on the dock and shook my hand. "How would you like to shoot me," he asked, "as a detective or as a criminal?" "I want to photograph you as yourself, "I said without thinking that it would frighten him.
It is not easy to photograph an actor as himself, because often he has the feeling that his "self" is only an empty shell. He tried to hide it by assuming the personality of the different characters he habitually portrays. Very often this feeling of inner emptiness is the very reason for his becoming an actor in the first place.
The moment Bogart faced my camera he completely desintegrated. He could not act the tough guy as usual, because we both knew it would be phony. He did not know what to do with his hands, he could not look at my lens, he trembled with embarrasment, and his plight was so pathetic that I started talking to him as if to a frightened child. Eventually my conversation helped him to become calmer, his attack of jitters passed, and I got a few pictures that showed more than the mask he usually wore.
Many years later I read about Bogart's last days. He was dying of cancer and bearing it with incredible courage and toughness. Was this heroism the apotheothis of his acting career or had it become the man he had played most of his life?
Last week when I faced actors Allan Morgan and Sarah Rodgers I was again amazed at how actors can act on demand and my fortune that as a photographer I can be a temporary director. They were in my studio for a photograph that will accompany a preview article in today's Georgia Straight on their participation in the forthcoming Hoarse Raven Production of Angels in America. While most of us think that Roy Cohn was a despicable character, Morgan, who plays him, displayed for me a more sympathetic take. I told Rodgers, who is an angel, to save the man from himself. This she did and I took 6 or 7 pictures very quickly just in case the moment disappeared.