INTERVIEW: Photographer Spotlight: Marc Cartwright

Excerpts from my interview with Marc Cartwright, published in the Summer 2011 issue of Icon Magazine.

If you remind celebrity photographer Marc Cartwright that a picture is worth a thousand words, he might respond, “Only a thousand?” A whimsical and introspective man with inspirations from nature and industry to silent films and surrealist paintings, Cartwright has set out to weave original stories with just a flash of his shutter by creating unique and therapeutic environments on his sets. Icon takes a look inside the mind and a glimpse at the work being set for a year-end show.

What in your own words signifies Marc Cartwright photography?
Words I like to hear people say are ‘classic’ and ‘cinematic’. I’ve always loved Hollywood and I’ve always loved film and the idea of storytelling but I also like the idea of self-containment - telling a story in a split second versus having to get a full movie crew together. I like people to look at my pictures and feel a sort of sultriness and a sort of depth.

Who are some of your favorite photographers or filmmakers?
My favorite photographers are Annie Leibovitz – I actually want her career – David Lachapelle, Tony Duran… I love Steven Klein. I always love the darkness of what he does. I don’t want to say ‘conservative’ but in my own life I tend to be very clean and safe and I think Steven Klein has inspired me to look at a darker side of things and introduce some of it into my work. As far as filmmakers, obviously Fritz Lang, it’s amazing what he did. I’m a big cheeseball so I love the ‘80s John Hughes films. It’s funny, a lot of those cheesy ‘80s films, there’s something about them that inspires me even though they’re completely ridiculous. I like movies like “Inception” and “The Adjustment Bureau” that make you think. I like different movies for different reasons; I don’t necessarily get into the work of just one person. For instance, “The Dreamers”, visually I thought that was such a smart movie, and then I think the whole noir genre of the ‘40s and ‘50s is really fun.

Do you have any pieces you are particularly proud of whether due to the end result or perhaps the means through which that result was achieved?
I would say my last two shoots were quite fun. One I called “Cabaret” – I wanted to do a piece about the 1920s and I had this whole idea for the set-up with all these lights… everything was going to be white… and then once I started shooting I started turning off more and more lights and just used the natural light for it. It came out so soft and ethereal; I loved it. It’s the first time I’ve really worked with all white and I’m really happy with what I got from it. And the “Mechanical Suitor”, because it was a sci-fi shoot and science fiction is one of my favorite film genres. Sara Paxton (“Last House on the Left”, “New Year’s Eve”) played the woman and she was just so fun to work with, her expressions were great and she really exuded that whole ‘40s feel. I feel I got the point across – we used CGI for the shoot and I got images that I just really, really like.

And how do you determine the direction of each celebrity shoot? You said you like to create bonds and break down barriers… is this different with celebs who come in with established personalities?
First I like to get an idea of what they want to see and where they are. For instance when I shot Tia Mowry she was known for “Sister, Sister” and she wanted to be more sexy and show people she was older so we wanted to challenge what people thought of her. She was so amazing, such a sweet person, and she came out gorgeous in the shots. Then with James Van Der Beek, again, such a sweet guy, everyone sees him as Dawson. I wanted to tap into something a little bit edgier and a little bit darker with him. People like experimenting with how they’re perceived. Of course you want to make sure it’s respectable and it’s going to go along with what the publicists want and what the people want their image to be but it’s fun to play with how people see themselves and mix my input with that.

Read the full interview in Icon's Summer 2011 Issue!

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