One of the biggest and most fun projects I’ve worked on for Harvard was shooting portraits of the Harvard Horizons PhD student scholars. I needed to shoot dynamic environmental portraits of eight selected students, all of whom worked in varying fields. Below are the tear sheets and selected portraits of each scholar.
I was limited to shooting on campus and completed this project over three days. Each subject was a pleasure to work with. We aimed to have a consistency in the photo style but let each person have something a little different to say. The first objective was helping my subjects feel at ease. Once I felt they were comfortable enough, I slowly eased into taking their photo. Keeping the conversation going while shooting is crucial for minimizing anxiety in a subject. Photo shoots work best when I let the subject know that I am the one steering the ship but that we’re both in it together. It’s allowing that trust and reassuring them that I won’t leave with unsatisfactory images.
All of the students were picked to speak about their research in front of an audience at the Sander’s Theatre. They gave thoughtful TED-style presentations. From psychological effects of music to DNA sequencing, all of their talks were fascinating.
In addition to the Horizons students, I also worked with two China scholars. This was more of a gun slinging scenario as I was only given 10 minutes to make a good portrait of them together. Groups are never easy, but I found that duos are the toughest, although I can’t explain exactly why.
There were many backdrops at the Harvard Business School to choose from, but I ended finding a spot in a basement that had multi-colored walls. I used a single flash setup here and went in with only one idea. I wanted to show some personality and didn’t want them to appear too formal. The limited time forced me just make it work.
I was fortunate to have more time to work with Suzanne Blier. She is a scholar of African art. I found the best location to shoot was in the hallway of the Arthur Sackler Museum. We got some solid pictures of Suzanne in her office, but realized the composition on the stairs was optimum and her expression was friendly. Our original idea was to pose her with some artwork, but I thought it took some of the focus off of her. So we went with a commanding pose that gave her a kind of leadership quality. Along with the majority of the portraits in this post, I also shot this with a single strobe with a photek umbrella.