American novelist and essayist Leslie Jamison by Michel Leroy
I am an avid reader and love being introduced to new material and authors so when the photo editor of Poets & Writers magazine called to see if I was available to shoot a feature of American novelist and essayist Leslie Jamison for the April 2018 release of her new memoir, The Recovering: Intoxication and Its Aftermath, I jumped at the chance. Leslie’s work is insightful and thoughtful with her new memoir she talks about her own struggle with alcoholism and sobriety. The book also examines the lives of several alcoholic writers and the culture of drinking in literature.
As a photographer I’m sought-after by magazines and brands for my ability to create a personal connection to real people living real lives. The idea of creating an intimate portrait of an author who had the guts to write first hand about the self-destructive impulse of high-functioning addiction meant I needed to confront the issue honesty with my own experiences. We all know people in our own families and lives who have dealt and continue to deal with substance abuse. The process of hitting rock bottom and Leslie’s subsequent sobriety needed to be addressed with the clarity and compassion she showed in the faithful telling of her own experience. I thought deeply about what it meant to see members of my own family and friends struggle with addition and knew I could connect with Leslie as a person who’s own addiction-recovery experience drove her to share her journey so openly.
From the moment we met we hit it off and got to talking like we had known each other for years. Within minutes of arriving on location I knew exactly what I wanted to shoot and how I would approach it. The crisp early-spring sky was clear and the sunlight burst through the windows filling the room with warm, clean, radiant light. We were shooting in a vintage Brooklyn brownstone so being confronted by that much light was unexpected and yet the perfect environment to photograph someone who has been in a dark place and persevered.
To achieve a natural looking light I chose to simply fill the shadows while allowing the natural light to act as the main. This would give it a really natural clean look while I was assured of consistency in case the sun went behind a building. I used one bare-bulb monolight to add to the window side of the room and the second monolight with the Lastolite Ezybox Pro Octa Softbox to fill in the shadows and bring out the natural shape of Leslie’s face. The entire kit with two monolights and the LastoLite Octa fits into one case and more importantly the trunk of a taxi cab and takes just minutes to setup and tear down – perfect for location photography.
The resulting portraits of Leslie Jamison, used on the content page, double-page feature and story pages can be seen in the May/June 2018 issue of Poets & Writers Magazine.
Sony a7R III Camera
Sony 24-70 2.8 G Master shot at 70mm
ISO 400 | f2.8 | 1/80
Lastolite Ezybox Pro Octa Softbox
Pro Traveler Monolights
Tether Tools TetherPro Cables & PhaseOne Capture One Pro Tether software.
For more celebrity portraits and advertising photography check out the latest work by Michel Leroy Photographer. All photos by Michel Leroy.