American Idol is “The Show That Defined a Decade,” notes the new issue of The Hollywood Reporter, which commissioned Art Streiber to photograph the on-air talent, creators, and executive producers for its “Idol at 10: Special Issue.” Here, Art talks about how he got the shots, which as you will see involved an amazing race against the clock…
Even though American Idol is ten years old, the on-air talent, creators, and executive producers have never been photographed together.
The Hollywood Reporter, which was relaunched as a glossy, oversized weekly last November, created a 20-page Idol package for their May 25th issue and asked Director of Photography Jennifer Laski asked me to photograph the nine members of the Idol brain trust for the cover and inside.
But…there were a number of constraints; the shoot had to happen immediately after their Wednesday-night, May 4th show, AND we only had a half an hour for a gatefold cover and a double-page spread, inside opener.
And both images needed to look different.
As much as I wanted to shoot on the stage where Idol is shot at CBS Television Center in Hollywood, the logistics of producing the show wouldn’t allow my crew and me enough time to get in and set our lights after the show was done taping. So we had to shoot on Stage 56, a building away from the Idol stage. All of the talent would have to be ferried over in golf carts and wouldn’t necessarily arrive at the same time.
And Stage 56 at CBS is currently unoccupied. What we found when we scouted was a half a room full of grey-carpeted audience bleachers in disarray and a black duvetyne perimeter curtain. That’s it.
But we were allowed to scout the Idol stage, and while there wasn’t any room for us to shoot there, my crew and I shot background plates from one of the audience wings of the set and used that background for our double-page opener.
Back on Stage 56, we had our set designer, Fi Johnson of Still Sets, match the flooring of the Idol stage and we very heavily rim lit our group with red-gelled lights, in order to match the back light from the Idol stage.
And we still had the cover to design, light, and execute, set against the backdrop of the dreary bleachers on Stage 56. So we went with a very strong series of spot-light back lights and arranged the talent into (2) side-by-side vertical groups in order to fill out the gatefold cover.
When the show was done taping, all of the executive producers and creators showed up, along with Ryan Seacrest, and we shot the RIGHT SIDE of the cover gatefold. We then moved over to the “red” set, and by that time Randy Jackson, Steven Tyler, and Jennifer Lopez had arrived, so we could shoot the group for the opener.
We then moved Randy, Steven, Jennifer, and Ryan back to the cover set in order to shoot the left side of the cover gatefold. And all of this took place inside of a half an hour.
We had tremendous help and guidance on set from Deputy Photo Editor Jenny Sargent. The Hollywood Reporter‘s creative director, Shanti Marlar, did an AMAZING job designing and type-treating the cover and opener. And finally, my retoucher, Angie Hayes at The Happy Pixel Project, created two magnificent, beautiful comps. —Art Streiber