My brain works like a camera—it’s as if the shutter is always clicking, documenting moments I see.
One evening I was enjoying a performance of award-winning actor Austin Pendleton. Throughout the show, I was intrigued by his charmful ways, his humor, wit, and authentic manners. At the end of the play, I whispered to my dear friend, June Ospa, “I’d love to photograph him, his expressions are priceless.” !~ June offered to introduce me to Mr. Pendleton.
About a year later, we had a photo session. I knew that creating portraits of a man who’d been in film, television, and theatre for more than fifty years would require something special.
I began searching to find every image of him I could find. It was surprising to me to find so few images that reflected the breadth of work, and his decades in the business. That is when my inspiration came. I would create a stylized portrait session to honor Mr. Pendleton’s contributions to theatre, television and film. I wanted to convey Mr. Pendleton’s charm, keen wit, and engaging warmth.
When we met, I felt as if I’d known him for a number of years. He makes everyone feel that way. !~
Creating more than a standard portrait sitting for Mr. Pendleton was key—I wanted him to have the experience of being in his element. While he is used to being in the directors seat, it was up to me to set the scene for a shoot, to capture the man in front of and behind the camera. I took the directors role. Yikes. !~
I requested Mr. Pendleton to bring along a few scripts of his current projects. To make him feel at home, I prepared café con leche and ordered red velvet cup cakes. In addition, I rented a comfortable antique chair for him. At one moment, when I noticed his feet up and his body curled into the chair, I said, ”Austin you look like you live here more than I do.” !~
As the session got underway, I captured Mr. Pendleton reading over his scripts. To keep him engaged and to elicit different expressions, I asked a series of questions which I had prepared prior to the shoot. This allowed me to photograph him seamlessly and naturally. I had the privilege of learning a great deal from his answers. My team and I felt the same way—as if we were in a top Masterclass. ! He was so engaging. !~
Between sets, Mr. Pendleton was in the kitchen making delicious “Mmmmm” sounds with every bite of the red velvet cupcakes. When I joined him we just laughed. I loved how at home he felt in my studio. I asked him how do you have all this energy from day to day, project to project, location to location.?” He said, “There is never a separation between work and loving what you do.” I never get tired. !~
I also asked, “What is your biggest fear?”. He responded, “None, you use fear to put energy into your acting or art, you use it as fuel." He shared one story of a fellow actor. “Every time she would get ready to go out on stage, she would grab the door knob and start shaking with anxiety and fear. It was astounding,” he said. “Then she would go out on stage and give her best performance. She did this every night. Hers is one of the best performances I have ever seen to date.”
Soon after the shoot, Mr. Pendleton and I met at an Italian restaurant and I took him through the images. He said the experience he had during our portrait session was one he’d always remember.
Mr. Pendleton said, “I’ve never seen myself look this good, nor have I had a portrait session in decades!”
I designed a photo shoot to celebrate his career and natural charm, and my goal was to open an unseen window into Mr. Pendleton’s personal and professional life. Mr. Pendleton’s portrait session is one of the most memorable to date.
Hair and Mens Grooming -LeArtiste
Stylist -Guy Tomlinson
Lighting Assist -Francois Bonneau
An Intimate Portrait Session
Austin Pendleton, an American film, television, stage actor, playwright, theater director and instructor.