For a feature on “How Great Portraits Are Made,” published in PDN’s March issue, managing editor Meghan Ahearn interviewed Nadav Kander about photographing actor Michael Shannon for a Port magazine cover story. Noting that Shannon is thought of as a bit of a tough guy thanks to his work in Boardwalk Empire and Man of Steel, Nadav explained that he aimed to show a range of emotion in his portraits.
“In the months after that shoot I saw so many pictures of him snarling at the camera and looking terrifying, and I was really pleased we didn’t go there.”
His shoot with Shannon, he says, was a collaboration—one fueled by the music of indie band Pavement and jazz guitarist Grant Green. “Actually,” says Nadav, “the cover picture is [Shannon] snapping his fingers to the music that he had put on and sort of going off in his own head.”
Though he spoke with Shannon on set before the shoot began, he said nothing to the actor while he photographed him. “Actors are very particular as a genre to photograph because they so understand an entertaining image—they so understand atmosphere, they so understand that there is an otherness to a picture, to a film, to a stage play,” says Nadav. “It’s not just what the words on your lips [are] or the look on your face, but there’s an atmosphere created, and that sits apart from you.”