the photographer capturing hollywood royalty
For 25 years, Marc Hom has photographed the crème de la crème of Hollywood: Lupita Nyong’o, Johnny Depp, Quentin Tarantino, Anne Hathaway. With a new book, Profiles, and an exhibition at Paul Smith’s London flagship store, we speak to the photographer...
How does one go about photographing someone who's had their picture taken a thousand times before? It's enough to have most photographers quaking in their Boots photo printing queue, but not Marc Hom. Image maker to the stars, the Danish photographer has built a career around taking candid and brilliant portraits of some of the planet's most photographed stars -- Alicia Vikander, Tim Burton, Jennifer Lopez, Louise Bourgeois -- and what's more he manages to do so in way you've never seen before (a talent no more apparent than in his images of a berobed Quentin Tarantino cavorting with a completely naked Nichole Galicia from Django Unchained).
It's a life's work celebrated in a new book, Profiles, and a current exhibition at Paul Smith's London flagship store until 14 December. "So often today people in the public eye look so glum and serious in photos," says Paul. "Marc has an ability to make people relax and look more natural and more themselves." Read our chat with the photographer below.
What messages should a good portrait convey?
Obviously most of these people have been photographed a lot before, so I think the most important thing is I do a picture that I own. That is my vision of this person. And, also, as you can see, I'm not really a photographer that is into tricks or anything. I always create the image in the camera, I never really swap heads or arms. So for me it's very important that it's an honest picture, that I satisfy myself and the subject with the image. It's a very intimate thing to be photographed so it's important for me that the subject likes the picture in the end. And also the timelessness. That I can look at my own pictures from 10 or 15 years ago and still think it's a great picture and it does not reflect a time in fashion or you cannot pinpoint it. That's important to me.
At what point did you realise that it would be portraiture rather than straight fashion photography that you focused on?
Fashion photography, I love it, when you have the right ingredients. But you're so dependent on each person being superb, you can't really control it yourself. You can do your part but if you don't have an amazing stylist, if you don't have the best girl, if it's not the best magazine, I really feel it becomes extremely mediocre. The times when you're really lucky having all that, if you work with great people in your team you can make ten pictures in a day like it's the easiest thing in the whole world. But you don't really want to be focusing on all those small details when you're concentrating on doing a photograph.
How do you go about putting a subject at ease?
I think it's all about trust. It's all about being able to work together on the day. If they don't trust you or you don't trust them it's very hard to do something with integrity. It's important you make people feel very comfortable and involved. I always have preset ideas about what I want to do and sometimes those ideas are great, but sometimes when you haven't met someone before, you're trying to push in that direction but you realise that this idea does not fit any of this person's persona. Early on in my career I would draw every single idea I had before I went to set and then I used to get so disappointed because two-thirds of the time they would never turn out like the drawing was. So I think as you go a long you take it a little more candidly in terms of capturing the moments you are in.
Does it help to work with people over and over again?
I think so. As our lives progress and as we get older and hopefully wiser you meet people at a very young age and then you work with them again and they have grown in their life. It's really interesting. You meet people on your way that you like to work with or you make relationships with. A good example is Johnny [Depp] and Tim [Burton]. They found each other at a really incredible time and they've had a really amazing relationship for so many years. Obviously now they need to change a bit but I think it's just interesting how you meet people and how you grow with people. Because there's nothing you can do alone. I mean, yeah, if you want to do landscapes. But I'm really not into that. I'm a people person.
Do you have a favourite subject?
It's so hard. I mean it's very much about capturing a moment on the day but there are some people that you, I wouldn't say admire more, but… Like Louise Bourgeois, I mean I think she's incredible and done so much beautiful work so to have photographed her makes me really proud.
The Tarantino images are so striking… What was working with him like?
It's such a funny thing because you can have preconceptions about people before you meet them. I'd met him a couple of times before and he's so energetic and so spontaneous and it's like getting a wild horse into the arena. You don't know what to expect. And he was amazing. The perfect example of what I just said about trust. So that kind of thing of also just letting your guard down and committing 100% when you're there. I like that images a lot. The detail of the glove, very cheeky… He asked if he could bring a girl and I said, "It should be someone from the movie. How about Kerry Washington?". He said, "No, no I want to bring this other girl [Nichole Galicia]". And in two minutes she was running around naked and there was this chemistry between them, sometimes, like, "Oh, maybe I shouldn't look at this!". It was just fantastic you know.
In the forward to the book, Anne Hathaway said: 'Marc was different. He didn't push; he hung back. He listened and created around him an atmosphere of stillness and gentleness. He didn't try to make me something I wasn't. He didn't judge who I was. It was the first time I felt beautiful"... How does it make you feel when you hear something like that?
I never really ask people to do stuff like that but since we chose her for the cover I asked her and said, "Do you mind?" and she said, "No, no, I'll do it". And then time went on and on and on and I didn't really hear from her and we were running into a bit of a deadline. Then suddenly one Sunday morning it bumped into my inbox. And I read what she said and I was, like, "Wow". I was quite touched to be honest.
Do you have any advice for young photographers?
Just develop. You have to develop a style that you like and follow it. And you have to be quite precise in how you see things and what your imagery is about. What I admire in older people and the older generation of photographers is, how do you keep hungry? How do you keep having appetite? I think that's the most important. If you can create your own appetite all the time, I think that's great.
Text Matthew Whitehouse