Lost & Found #33: Arts Foundation of New Zealand Laureate Portraits, 2004

John Pule, Derek Llardelli, Ann Robinson, Jack Body and Barry Barclay, 2004

John Pule, Derek Llardelli, Ann Robinson, Jack Body and Barry Barclay, 2004

In 2004, I was asked by the Arts Foundation of New Zealand to make a series of portraits of their Laureate award winners for the year - a disparate group of people from around the country, who had been nominated quite without their knowledge to receive this new award. They got a phone call out of the blue one day to say they'd won, there was no application process or requirement to produce work and report back - they'd simply been chosen because of their contribution to the country's culture.

So, naturally, they were pretty happy by the time I met them! What was needed was simply a series of portraits for the gala announcement not long afterwards, with a black background onto which text could be added. For a variety of reasons, I decided rather than hiring a photographic studio, we'd do it in a theatre in Wellington - which turned out to be a great thing, because I could use constant lighting (which I prefer in some ways, as you're never waiting for the flash to recycle), but also they were all much more comfortable in that sort of environment than the often sterile atmosphere of a real studio.

What I realised looking back at the images just now is that I've always had a personal A-list of the portraits, because (in a moment of clarity) I decided to get prints made for each of them, and also to get them to sign one for me at the gala event - so they've been on the wall of my office ever since.

But in fact, what the audience saw on the night were five different portraits - as is so often the case, the ones that appealed to me personally weren't the same ones the client chose for their own use. (Which is fine, of course - it's not all about me, I know!)

Above are the Arts Foundation's official portrait series, which are the ones that have been on their website ever since - but below are the ones I see every day at work...

And like I say, it's not really a case of right or wrong, here - it's different tastes, and different needs. In my case, I wanted five that would sit together well in a single frame, so they needed to all be the same size & shape, roughly speaking - while for the client, a mix of portrait and landscape was fine.

Anyway - I just thought it was interesting to look at two different edits, or interpretations, of the same shoot.  It also surprised me a little that in a number of cases, the client's favourite was an image from the first few minutes of the shoot, when they'd just walked in and were getting to know me, and hoping the shoot would be okay; where mine are mostly from the last few frames I took, where they'd (hopefully) relaxed a bit and almost forgotten about the fact that I was even taking photos.

I wonder if that's why I preferred them - because I remembered what the shoot was like - where the Arts Foundation was just seeing the final results.  It's interesting how the memory of taking it can change how you see an image, in that way...