I've probably shot hundred of portraits on assignment for magazines and various clients. This particular area of my work feels fabulous as it's always a wonder to face up actual situation with improvised creativity. Although, once in a while, a portrait photographer will be challenged to reveal the core of his essential skills. Let me clarify this one for you. It's not about pure techniques but more about a photographer's ability to express himself with only the very heart of his potential. He's got to act quickly with the substantial part of his art and trade. What's in the way? Surprise. It's not necessarily a challenge coming from the person the photographer is assigned to shoot. It may also derive from the timing or the nature of the location. Usually, I'm given three basic informations on an assignment: who, where and when. "Where" and "when" may be subject to negociation but rarely. Sometimes tension comes out of nowhere. For exemple, I remember that time when I was sent to an exotic location for five days, flying business and accomodated in a luxurious hotel, only to be given, last minute, 90 seconds to shoot the portrait I was there for. You need to be zen and focus on the present event if you want to go back home with a picture.
Recently, I went to shoot some portraits in a hyper timed context. I definitively couldn't bargain over where and when. It was taking place in a palace in Paris. But as I was showed the location for the photoshoot, I walked from luxurious lobby to pompous halls to modest staircases and finally to a dissapointing tiny conference room. And my first appointment was to arrive in 5 minutes. That's the kind of situation that monitors where stands your substantial photographic skills. Five minutes to think about something else than the unphotogenic room you are in and to set the lights and camera. Well, I'm glad this test happened early this year and here are the results.