Kevin Lynch’s conceptual portraits are what first brought Hollywood knocking and they’re what keep production companies, publicists, and the celebrities they showcase coming back for more.
Enthusiastic clientele are drawn to his stylish, edgy, and experimental lighting techniques. They turn to him and his team for the new and sometimes unusual. Lynch, who has earned creative freedom with his Hollywood clients, finds work is a pleasure. “I think a photographer’s ideal is to have their personal work merge with their commercial work so they can totally enjoy what they do.”
Having assisted Greg Gorman in Los Angeles early on and now the head of his own studio serving A-list clients, Lynch has already met this goal.
“When I bring my portfolio into a meeting at a movie studio, they like the portraits of personalities in my images. What’s even better is when art directors become intrigued with my personal projects.” More often than not, Lynch’s admirers respond intuitively to his experimental, nonconformist approach.
“My clients like my approach to lighting, sure,” he says, “but I also think it’s the unconventional take I go after, the drama I try to capture. Not being ‘commercial’ means I won’t always get a Disney job with a dog jumping in the air, but instead of that I’ll get shoots on such films as the upcoming Spiderman III, which suits me just fine.”
Keeping it Fresh
Working with celebrities some 10 years, Lynch has developed his own perspective on the movie industry.
“My take is that the movie industry is always looking for something fresh, and I think sometimes people are more interested in edgier stuff—giving me more freedom to come up with new ideas. My forte is portraiture, and coming up with new ways to keep it interesting is what really makes it fun for me.
“The trick is to be able to wholly control your lighting, and always, always be ready to go at any given moment. In the movie business, you might wait two or three days for the five minutes you’ll eventually be given to make photographs.”
For the searing image of Gary Dourdan (left), Lynch decided to illuminate his subject’s face with a 4k HMI, which he diffused with 4’x4’ silk. “Using an HMI to light portraits adds a lot of light and color to the eyes, and brings an intense drama, while keeping the light soft and easily controllable,” Lynch explains.
For the Paz Vega portrait, taken at the La Figueroa Hotel in Los Angeles, he used available light with a Briese Focus 220 umbrella for flattering light placement. To create a 1920s look for Lucy Liu (p. 39, top), Lynch used a 6k HMI diffused with silk and combined it with foam core-modified strobes, producing a soft, creamy look to her features.
Even his manipulation of natural light, accented by strobes and strip lights, commands a second look from his loyal and growing clientele.
Several of Lynch’s more recent portrait works, including an upcoming book from powerHouse Books, featuring before-and-after portraits of Ultimate Fighting Championship competitors, reveal his masterful work with single globes.
“To replicate the feeling of a locker room light bulb, I use Briese or Profoto globe lights, shining down on the subject, but not immediately revealing his or subject’s feelings.” He used a single, overhead Profoto globe light tor the moody Alfred Molina image (p. 36, bottom right).
“It gives the portrait a sense of mystery and depth through its shadowing.”
Freedom and Discipline
Lynch’s experimental methodology requires thorough rehearsal and planning. He chooses his team of assistants, producers, and stylists carefully, and knows he does his best work when the group is working as a team, as a family.