Pat Quinn SmilesTuesday, November 25, 2014
In the 80s when business magazines were at their apogee the word executive was a most positive description of a man (few women in this in Vancouver at the time). We wanted powerful businessmen who were incisive. In some way we also transferred this idea to politicians.
We photographers then used techniques to make these hallowed men look more powerful. One technique was to use dramatic lighting and the other was to shoot up and have our subject looking down at the camera from “up there”.
By the nineties business magazines were hurting and politicians seemed to be involved in more scandals. At that point we photographers tried to make our subjects less powerful and more honest. My mantra when taking portraits of businessmen and politicians became one of taking a picture, looking at it and asking myself, “Would I buy a used car from him?”
In 1992 I photographed Pat Quinn for the Georgia Straight. The man that faced my camera was large, intimidating, serious and not in the least self-conscious about looking straight at me and probably thinking, “Let’s get this over with, I have better things to do with my time.”
But I pressed on and actually took 24 exposures with two different kinds of b+w film. My usual for such a session would have been 10 exposures.
I took one roll of Quinn smoking his cigar in which the necessary technique to show smoke is to have an additional light (a back light). Then I took shots without the cigar.
The man faced my camera and I was using a 140mm lens on my Mamiya RB-67. This lens had me about three feet away. I raised the camera on its tripod and pointed it down at Quinn forcing him to look at me. This by the 90s made business men and politicians look less powerful in a down to size sort of way.
This was my dialogue with Quinn as I remember:
Me: Mr. Quinn you don’t smile.
Quinn: I don’t.
Me: I used to smoke until recently Montecristo Claros and I notice you like Romeo y Julietas.
At that point he smiled for me.
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