Artist portraits – it's not all about headshots

  • Rino Pucci

As a portrait photographer, I take headshots. Loads of them. Especially for actors and performers. Actor headshots have their own grammar – the appropriate light, the subtle nod to a desired casting type, the eye as the fulcrum of the composition – which I fully respect (and try to adhere to as best as I can).

/// Headshots of actor and VO artist Leonie Schliesing across the web. © Rino Pucci ///
/// Emilie Kasinga, David Furlong, Aprine Tan and Anna-Lisa Smith © Rino Pucci ///
But when it comes to portray an artist, headshots are not the only way to go. Musicians can be photographed with their instruments, dancers and gymnasts are better shown full-figure and in motion, creative souls can be better portrayed with an environmental portrait – and actors (even actors...) don’t need to look straight into camera all the time.
/// Dancer Leire Merino Garín – from her portfolio. © Rino Pucci ///
/// Choreographer and dancer Kristin Ryg Helgebostad performing “Me Too” © Rino Pucci for Fest en Fest ///
/// Throughout the years I've taken several portraits of Lorenzo Iosco, bass clarinetist at the Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra and conductor, but this one, shot on the terrace of my London studio at sunset, is the one that Iosco still uses the most, on social media and press releases. © Rino Pucci ///
There are times where an unconventional portrait can help a new image come to the surface. “When discussing casting – says actor and performer Natalie Ciufo Green – I’m often told that I have a bit of quirky and androgynous look, then let me own it! We should celebrate and use what makes us unique, not try and alter ourselves to ‘who we think others want to see’ ”, adds Natalie.
/// Actor and performer Natalie Ciufo Green © Rino Pucci ///
I love this image of Natalie as I think that there is something timeless about her poised features. It’s a portrait which nods to a bygone era, maybe the Fifties, where things had more substance and a certain look could equate to delivering a clean-cut statement, like “take me or leave me”.
I am not sure if this portrait would fit into the headshot’s category (too much artificial light, purists would opine), and yet I am convinced that it conveys much more character than an average super-polished headshot would do.
/// A midsummer night’s dream – Portrait of Olivia Taylor. Borough, London. © Rino Pucci ///
Sometimes I give portraits a title. This one featuring model Olivia Taylor is called “A midsummer night’s dream” as, when I was planning it, I imagined it like having a high amount of surreality while still being very credible – as it happens in dreams. This is what environmental portraits are for: in order to channel a specific mood, you don’t need to go that close, the subject can be small within the frame as the surroundings will do the rest.
/// Miles Lucien-Walters in my studio © Rino Pucci ///
/// “Like photobombing a masterpiece” – model and actor Anna Fraser © Rino Pucci ///
Anna Fraser plays the enigmatic woman here – as if she breaks, by accident, into a canvas hanging on the wall, like she’s photobombing a revered masterpiece. Or maybe she’s escaping from it?
/// Alice Martucci © Rino Pucci ///
A sudden blow of wind can change a whole scene, and the unplanned, the unexpected can make a portrait truly revealing.