BTS With Bruno Barbey
“And when Hernri said to me….”
Hard to believe that it’s already been two months since I was in Cape Town, South Africa, overseeing a two-week editorial photo shoot.
Also hard to believe it’s been two months since I got the great chance to work with, watch work, and learn from Magnum photographer Bruno Barbey.
I’ll be brutally honest. I wasn’t too familiar with Bruno or his work before I learned I’d be working with him. My ignorance towards great photographers is nothing new. Back in 1999, I had no clue who Joe McNally was before embarking on a two-week shoot with him. Now I consider him a close friend, one who was even at my wedding. But I digress…
I know, right?
Hard to go wrong with any of those shooters. As it turned out, Bruno got the nod above the others in this line up. I think we would have been happy with any of these four (though, frankly, I thought Marcus was the odd man out here. I know his work pretty well and just wasn’t sure this type of editorial shoot was up his alley.)
Prior to heading to South Africa, I had the chance to speak with Bruno on the phone after he was awarded the job. He was very open to what our photographic standpoint and style guide is, and had some good ideas about what to shoot once we got there.
My first meeting with him (and his lovely wife Caroline) was at breakfast on Sunday morning. Yes, sure, he’s a bit older than that photo of him on the Magnum site, but he’s got a great face. And he was the one with the Canon 5D Mark III on the table next to him. Yes, he wasn’t shooting with Leica’s on this trip. In fact, I never saw him pull them out. Instead, he was digital Canon all the way.
I introduced myself (technically, I was “the client”) and sat down for breakfast with him and Caroline. By this time, I had done enough reading up on him that I was slightly awed to be chatting with him. But I quickly found him warm and inviting. And, after he found out about my love of photography, he really opened up, discussing his past work and how to make my work better.
Of course, my role on this job was to serve as, yes, the client, but also art director, making sure we got what we needed. I also like to documented the behind-the-scenes scenes as well. For my own enjoyment, but also for the team back at the ranch. I like to show them what goes into one of our photoshoots.
“Anticipate. Always anticipate.”
That was the best piece of advice he gave me. We were walking along the street in Camps Bay, heading to our shoot site on the beach. But even on the way there, Bruno was shooting. He couldn’t let a photographic opportunity go by him. Whether slyly shooting from the hip, or engaging an older couple to shoot their portrait, he loves photography. That much was clear.
And I loved to see it. I’ve traveled and worked with “pros” who only pulled out a camera when it was time to get down to business. We’d be traveling through European cities and they were just sit there. I never understood how they turned it on and off like that. Then again, in looking back, I realize the portraits my company paid the for had no passion in them them. They were staid and boring in retrospect. Photography was their business and they were adept at it. But maybe it wasn’t their passion any more.
With Bruno, the passion to make photos was there. On the job or off, he was shooting. Always shooting.
I don’t remember exactly when Bruno named-dropped Henri Cartier-Bresson to me. Maybe he did it on purpose. Maybe it wasn’t anything. Caroline, Bruno’s wife, is a film maker and interviewed HCB just before he passed away. It was clear to me that Henri was a colleague and peer so maybe it wasn’t anything (one of the BBDO team thought he did it just to impress me.) Whatever. I’m not going to think about that much. I just know that it was great to work with Bruno, have him instruct me at times, and enjoy his passion for photography.
Just before we left, Bruno knocked on my hotel door and gave me a book of his photos. And a nice signature as well. I’m honored to have it.
I’m also honored to have met and worked with Bruno. I hope we’ll stay in touch. I do owe him an email, especially now that we’ve made our final selects from the shoot. My lasting memory of Bruno, though, will be him shooting.
Good advice whether you’re a Magnum photographer or a mug from New Jersey.
© Mark V. Krajnak | JerseyStyle Photography | All Rights Reserved 2014