I was telling a photographer I had just met how the whole “red carpet” photography thing seemed pretty superficial to me. I just don’t get it. While the people are famous, the photographs are generally awful. I said something about it being a shame that you could make more money doing celebrities on the red carpet than you could doing real work that meant something, like reportage or concerned photojournalism.
By his reaction I knew I had said something wrong and then he told me he did red carpet celebrity photography for a living.
My second premiere of the day started out with about twenty of us journalists being kept in a pen, outside in the cold, for about twenty minutes. No lie. Then we were taken into the tent where the press line would be and we waited.
There were six still photographers and about ten video crews for the red carpet. A snow storm was snarling traffic all through Park City, delaying the stars of the film. Cast member Eve Hewson came through the line. Then the director, Paolo Sorrentino, came out for a quick photo. Here’s an outtake:
I know, we’ve been rocking these Mark II’s for so long that they’re about to become cool again in a retro photography way. But I’m sure Adobe is right now developing software to sharpen lost frames like that one. In a few years I’ll be able to post a software fixed, in-focus version of that shot. Check back here in 2015 to see it.
After that we waited. It was only after two hours of waiting that a publicist came in and announced that Sean Penn would make a quick appearance for still photos, but there would be no video or interviews. Glad I wasn’t them.
Before Penn arrived a publicist came out and said since there were only six photographers there’d be no need or us to yell out his name and she said, “Everything will be beautiful!”
He comes out, stands in front of the red background for a full 21 seconds, taking turns looking at each of our cameras. Our six flashes fired about a billion times.
I got 34 frames off. Once again my favorite shot is one where another photographer’s blasting flash blasted my shot. And for the record, I threw about a hundred Lightroom pre-sets onto it before it looked like this:
21 seconds and he walked off.
I might be reflecting my feelings about the situation when I say that Sean Penn appeared amused at how ridiculous the situation was— him walking out for 21 seconds and all of us taking the same bad photograph with direct flash of him in front of a corporate banner.
As I walked out of the place I saw Penn standing off in the dark and thought about making a joke with him about how silly all of this celebrity photography stuff is. But I didn’t. Who am I kidding? I had no right to joke. I was playing the game just like the rest of them.