Interview: What does it take to photograph “Iconoclasts”?

Earlier this year, Doug Menuez traveled around the world photographing the new season of Iconoclasts, a series by the Sundance Channel and Grey Goose Entertainment that pairs creative and innovative people and documents their interaction. The show offers a unique opportunity to see how these people think, what drives them, and what they bring out in each other—and those were the same elements that Doug needed to capture with his camera.

“We’re always trying to capture these extraordinary encounters between the iconoclasts, so embedding someone like Doug was a great opportunity to capture those raw, unscripted moments,” says Sidney Beaumont, executive producer of @radical.media, which has produced Iconoclasts for the past five years.

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Jean-Georges Vongerichten and Hugh Jackman. Photo by Doug Menuez for @radical.media and "Iconoclasts."

 

Charlize Theron and Jane Goodall. Photo by Doug Menuez for @radical.media and "Iconoclasts."

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“The Iconoclasts photography, which is used for documenting and promoting the series, is a great way to convey—in one image—the subjects’ relationship with each another,” adds Caroline Suh, series producer for Iconoclasts. “When they work well, as Doug’s photographs do, they can also embody the spirit of each episode.”

Doug’s assignment was to shoot the entire production, including the crew at work, the talent doing what they were doing, and also portraits and other shots to be used in the ad campaign, bus sides, website, print ads, and so forth. The photography had to happen during the actual taping, so somehow Doug had to get what he needed without getting in the way. As a longtime documentary photographer, he was in his element.

“They are shooting cinema verite documentary, exactly as I would be if I were by myself just doing the stills,” Doug explains. “But I had to shoot around them to get my shots, AND I had to use a blimp, a very heavy soundproofing case that limited my access to the controls of the camera. So I basically had a point-and-shoot and could not make adjustments for light—I just had to wing it. It was like shooting with one hand tied behind your back on the most important assignment in years.”

 

Doug Menuez and Jane Goodall during the shooting of season 5 of "Iconoclasts."

Doug Menuez photographing Lee Daniels.

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“But,” he continues, “the crew that @radical.media put together had the most talented documentary folks around, including the directors Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky, both with many awards and films behind them, and the DP, Bob Richman. So they welcomed me into the gang and were incredibly supportive. They even stopped filming so I could do one-on-one portraits with the talent. That’s amazing, considering the pressure of putting two famous cultural figures together and trying to make a show from that.”

The current season of Iconoclasts, which debuted on October 2, pairs Academy Award–winning actress Cate Blanchett and eco-scientist Tim Flannery in Sydney, Australia; legendary primatolgist Jane Goodall and Academy Award winner Charlize Theron at Tchimpounga sanctuary in the Republic of Congo; Grammy-winning rock star Lenny Kravitz and Academy Award–winning director and producer Lee Daniels in the Bahamas; Tony Award–winning actor Hugh Jackman and renowned chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten in New York City; Academy Award–winning director Ron Howard and two-time MVP Phoenix Suns point guard Steve Nash in Chicago; and magician David Blaine and celebrated artist Chuck Close in New York City.

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Lenny Kravitz. Photo by Doug Menuez for @radical.media and "Iconoclasts."

Charlize Theron. Photo by Doug Menuez for @radical.media and "Iconoclasts."

Ron Howard and Steve Nash. Photo by Doug Menuez for @radical.media and "Iconoclasts."

Jane Goodall and Charlize Theron. Photo by Doug Menuez for @radical.media and "Iconoclasts."

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Clearly, the @radical.media team faced intense logistics in getting these busy people together and ensuring that each shoot ran smoothly, and they had to get great footage and great stills the first time—no do-overs. Why did they choose Doug for the job? “We’ve been big fans of his work and love the sensitivity that he brings to his images,” says Sidney. “Jon Kamen, chairman and CEO of @radical.media, has known Doug for a long time and felt his presence and flexibility would be perfect for the nature of these shoots and the caliber of talent involved.”

Says Jon, “Doug is not only a pleasure to have on the set, constantly contributing his grace to the vibe of production, but more importantly he didn’t forget his job and actually delivered magnificent images.”

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(Thank you to everyone at @radical.media—including Caroline, Jon, and Sidney—for making time to be interviewed for this post.)

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To learn more about this season of Iconoclasts, and to see more of Doug’s images, visit sundancechannel.com/iconoclasts/.

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4 Comments

  1. Posted 10/25/2010 at 11:28 am | Permalink

    Hello.
    This is a very interesting interview. I would like to translate to Portuguese and post it in my blog, is that ok? Of course i will give reference and links to this page! Thanks!

    FélixP


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  1. […] You can also read more about it here on the Stockland Martel blog: Interview: What does it take to photograph “Iconoclasts”? « Stockland Martel […]

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