Creating beautiful photographs of hands
Somebody asked me if you know, photographing hands was a still life, which I think it essentially is. The hands are not dead, they're not ever dead. Although, once in Las Vegas I did photograph the death hands, made out of wax, of Liberace. But most hands are absolutely, you know, moving, living things but somehow you treat them compositionally and you can also treat them emotionally. I was lucky enough to photograph the hands of Joan Didion who's the great American writer and I was actually leaving, I had finished shooting and I just suddenly noticed that she had a beautiful collection of sea shells so I did a kind of a rather obvious thing of photographing her hands as just, quickly on a four by five camera, with a natural light from the window actually. And I really grabbed that shot at the end and later I thought it was actually a better shot than I had realized. That's something that happens, sometimes you take a picture and you think it's, you know it's okay, it's ...
not bad but then later you realize that it's actually a little bit better than you first thought, you know? And it's actually a shot that we do now as a additioned series. So photographing hands, I've done lot's of them. Little bit the sad thing, which was really you know, once again, even though that I'm working all the time you still make mistakes and that's one thing you have to kind of learn from. I remember photographing in the flower market in Marrakech. I was waiting for some models to get ready you know and I noticed that the flower seller, a woman, her hands were henna tattooed and she was selling roses. So I took a few rose petals and dropped them into her hand, you know, and just natural light with a four by five camera and I had this kind of what, now looking back at, it was a bad habit, where I would do Polaroids for people and just give the Polaroids away. So I would do the Polaroid and you know, give it to the editor or a model or just give them to people. Give them to the flower seller. Here's a Polaroid of your hands. My assistant at that time said He said "You do Polaroids all the time, why don't you just do two sheets of film?" And I said, "Oh I can't be bothered." But then he said "Here, here you go." And he put the film in my hand and I shot and I kind of realized from that point on that I should always do that. You know, just taking some nice pictures because a lot of time I'm focused on what I'm doing. If I'm doing 20 pages, 40 pages for Italian Vogue then that's what I'm doing, I'm there to do 20 pages. And I'm not necessarily there to do my own projects. If I do my own projects it's so so. So he actually changed that, that guy, that assistant changed it and it actually was quite a, there was a lot of things that came along that I started to do. And I actually went back one time and found some great old Polaroids which later we actually used as part of a big project. So I did go back and find some of these old Polaroids that we used. But photographing hands is a very nice thing to do. You know one thing, when you're photographing hands you can always try and see, you know when you're working with somebody's face you're working on emotions but you can do the same thing with hands. You can, you can really treat hands softly and delicately. The flower sellers, Moroccan flower sellers hands are done that way but I've also done, you know, boxer's hands and I've done hands aggressively. I've done hands in movement, I've done hands sleeping. I mean, I've photographed Snoop Dogg's hands when he was fast asleep on my couch. So you know, you should always be kind of keeping little things like that in mind. And as long as you can, you have the speed to do these things fairly quickly, you don't always have to use a four by five, you can use a smaller camera to do that. I think it's a pretty good exercise to improve your, your awareness of who and what you are. (soft music)