It's New Mexico–based Lucas Cichon's black shadows, dramatic contrast, and air of mystery that sell executives from prestigious corporations like Fortis Insurance, Time Inc., VisionBox, and Hilton Hotels Corp. But it's the intimate nature of his portraits, turning total strangers into open books, that attracts everyone else.
"The individuals who come to me usually have a vision of how they see the world and read something in my other photographs that they relate to and hope I can do for them," says Cichon. And although he maintains that everyone he meets is interesting in one way or another, he jumped at the chance to photograph the very people who inspired his unique black-and-white style—photographers like Robert Farber, Arnold Newman, and Greg Gorman.
In 2002, Cichon thought, "What better way to challenge yourself than to photograph other photographers." They'd know exactly what he'd be doing the whole time, and it would be interesting to get their reactions to the final portraits. And that's exactly how "Shooting the Shooters" began.
Facing Famous Faces
Cichon decided the best way to jump-start the project was to go after large numbers of photographers. He reserved a meeting room in the downstairs area of the Javits Center during the 2002 PhotoPlus Expo. He sent emails that linked to his website to photographers, inviting them to be part of the project. "My only criteria for asking people was that I admired their work," says Cichon.
The first to show were some of the biggest names in photography: Douglas Kirkland, Pete Turner, and Arnold Newman (p. 38), whom he was especially excited to meet. Cichon recalls the Newman image: "That was the first picture I took during the shoot. He had just come out of his studio darkroom, and was wearing a white apron. He asked if he should take it off, and I said yes. Then I walked right up to him, within a foot of his face, and took the photograph. So he goes, ‘Well, I didn't need to take my smock off for that.' I was hoping that wasn't the end of the shoot." It wasn't.
Douglas Kirkland was equally humorous. Cichon remembers the moment his suspicions about being judged were confirmed: "Kirkland is friends with Pete Turner, who I was going to photograph later, and when Kirkland and I finished up, he said, ‘I'm gonna have to call Turner and make sure he shows up because we were talking, and if you were a flake he wasn't gonna show up.'"
One of his more challenging images was the one of Monte Zucker. The shot was lit with Profoto lights in Chimera softboxes (one in back of him, hitting the left side of his face, another under his chin), a fill light in the back of the gallery, and the main studio light. When Cichon characteristically got in really close with his Nikon, "Zucker, who is a Canon shooter, could hear the camera autofocusing and started asking eight million questions about Nikon—it was almost like things were getting turned around on me," says Cichon, who clarified that the shot was taken when digital was just really coming into its own.
Eventually he got to photograph Farber and Gorman, as well. Cichon says, "Depending on how long they let me photograph them, I was able to learn about their lives and how they grew as photographers."
No just a perk— this was part of the plan all along. Plus he was curious to see what the people who took such remarkable photographs looked like. "The portrait of Steve McCurry is one of my favorites," says Cichon. "When I look at his photographs and hear about the danger often involved in getting them, I conjure up a mental image of him as a cross between Indiana Jones and Rambo with a bunch of cameras dangling from his neck. Then the real Steve McCurry comes in and he's no bigger than I am." It was a humbling experience for Cichon.
To capture his portraits of these celebrated creatives, Cichon kept dialogue going throughout the shoot. This caused him to lose a lot of shots to open mouths and wagging tongues, but, as he explains, "The best images are the ones that are taken the second before they open their mouths, when they're contemplating what they are going to say. For that one second, they're vulnerable—they're not thinking about the camera. You see the actual person."
He also made it a point to invade their personal space. After he'd set up three or four potential lighting scenarios that could be easily adjusted by flicking switches on and off, he'd start up a conversation, instruct the photographer to take a seat on the stool, and immediately put the camera right in his or her face. "I like to get in really close to see how they react. It gives you a chance to judge their comfort level," says Cichon.
His subjects walked away with the usual handshake and later received an email containing Cichon's first-choice pictures to choose from. In the end, they received two CDs and match prints, "because I hope that they will take one and put it somewhere other than on their desktop," says Cichon, who keeps two for himself as well.
For his next project, which he plans to devote himself to once he completes "Shooting the Shooters," he'll take nude portraits of 40 people over the age of 40. It doesn't get more intimate than that.
For more Cichon images, visit www.lucascichon.com