The Conscious Photographer Episode 04 - Jaap Buitendijk On What It's Like Taking Pictures for Steven Spielberg & How To Use Your Sensory Acuity To Make Great Pictures.
The chances are if you’ve been outside or watched a movie in the last 25 years you have seen Jaap Buitendijk’s, work, in fact, you probably have many his images sitting in your media library.
Jaap is a specials and unit photographer, aka a movie or set photographer. If you’ve seen any of the press images for Fantastic Beasts that are out in the world at the moment or remember a small film series called Harry Potter you have seen Jaap's work. Those are just two in a long list of films Jaap has worked on, some of the other titles include, Blood Diamond, Children of Men, Gladiator, The Kingsmen, Rush, Alexander and In Bruges, the list goes on and on.
Jaap is an incredibly interesting person and regarded as one of the best film stills photographer in the world. He works in what I believe is one of the only genuinely elusive branches of photography. There is little information about set and specials photographers, and in this interview Jaap, shares some incredible advice and stories about how he became involved in the industry. He discusses his journey from shooting small student plays to the biggest feature films on the planet where he frequently finds himself working alongside the likes of Brad Pitt, Tom Hanks, Tye Sheridan, Tom Cruise, Angelina Jolie & Leonardo Dicaprio & with directors such as Steven Spielberg, Danny Boyle, Steve McQueen, Martin Scorsese & Oliver Stone.
Despite working with the biggest names in the industry Jaap talks fondly about the smaller scale productions he started on and how these were the basis and foundation for him moving onto the bigger productions.
Jaap discusses how he conveys & distils the mood of an entire film into a single frame and what questions he asks himself while editing down his work. We also get into the polarizing working environment of being a set photographer as Jaap often finds himself going from being a quiet observer on set to having a complete production halt so he can get the perfect picture and how he deals with that stress. We also get into Jaap's workflow and how he goes about delivering 150 images to the studio a day.
As film sets can be very, high-pressure, Jaap also talks a great deal about the importance of sensory acuity and being aware of your surroundings and the emotions of your subjects. He also discusses what it's like to photograph a movie poster in a very short space of time. I have worked with him closely in these situations, and he handles it like a pro and gives some great advice to you about dealing with pressure as a photographer.
Jaap also gives some great advice to photographers looking to break into the industry and skills you should focus on honing as well as the equipment you should invest in. These are just a few of the things we discuss.
There are some real gems in this interview and I think it's one my favourite interviews yet.
My Favorite Quotes From The Podcast
“It’s of course creatively more satisfying to feel that you really have enveloped a project in your photography.”
“You’re fundamentally an observer when you create the set photography.”
“You constantly have a radar of sorts a sensitivity within you that judges at all times whether you’re still welcome"
“Who you are as a person is going to effect the kind of documentary material that you create because you’re not invisible you’re still there, of course, your personality is going to affect your environment to some extent"
“ It’s actually one of the wonderful things about working in film, is that you can go into a completely new production, with completely new people in a completely different place with a completely new story and yet from day one everybody knows what they’re doing and how their part more or less the bigger whole”
“ I would definitely say that any work I did then on the smaller jobs was very much grounding for the later work, for the bigger jobs."
”Creatively you do try to tell the story in a frame and sometimes that’s more successful than others. And that has to be on your mind at all times. You’re not a position to rely on the knowledge of context. You just have to try and find key moments that crystallize some key aspect of the story”
”I’m always looking for photographs, that work as photographs, regardless of the famous actor.”
”I look for photographs that to me at least, show that I was there, that I thought about what you were going to see, that I tried to frame the image in a way that celebrated the medium”
”Your stills need to harness and crystallize the look of a film”
”Film stills are quite unusual because you’re one of the very few people to be that close to the actors."
”I’ve noticed that when I do my grading it adds another layer of story telling to the image.”
”It’s all-consuming once I am on a film."
“This whole notion of the camera having to be a messenger of truth of some sort is removed in film still."
In this episode, you will learn.
- The importance of the use of colour within your photography and how it can be used to emote a certain feeling.
- How to use your sensory acuity to feel out your subjects to ensure you get the best picture possible.
- How to effectively deal with pressure as a photographer.
- The skills required for you to be a great movie stills photographer.
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