Magazine Article


Pure Chemistry

Gordon Munro Keeps It Clean

Clean, pure images in which his subjects' personalities seem to pop right through are Gordon Munro's creative calling card. His uncluttered impressions are sought out by top fashion, beauty, and editorial accounts across the U.S. Grace Jones, Mary J. Blige, Magic Johnson, and Alicia Keyes head up his distinguished portrait clientele.

Munro's sensibilities and flair for composition give advertising clients Avon, Saks Fifth Avenue, Lord & Taylor, Bill Blass, and Birger Christensen, TK and (editorial credits) captivating images with which to work.A passionate collaborator who loves interacting with teams who offer ideas and suggestions, Munro considers input a plus. "I like models who bring something to the shoot, creative directors with a viewpoint, and makeup artists willing to break a few rules."

Shuttling between a New York City studio and his home and family in North Carolina, Munro so enjoys the benefits of collaboration that you'll often find him spending free time staging mini photo sessions with makeup artist pals "just for the heck of it."

During one such impulsive interlude, makeup artist Robin Schoen of Utopia NYC, decided to band the model's shoulder, neck, and forehead in a silver metallic polish. Munro captured the image of Allisandre from Next Models New York (p. 40) using a Profoto beauty dish for an upcoming New York gallery show.

"Even though the makeup might be considered complex," says Munro, "the overall mood and image remain clean. Spending time just experimenting is very important to me for my growth as a photographer. We all know staying fresh and innovative is essential in this competitive market."


Upon winning a new account, Munro, his photo agent, the client, and their team meet to plan the shoot. When on all parties settle on a direction, Munro spends time with each artist as they prepare for the shoot. "I try to let each person work and move as they please, only directing when I see something starting to work that needs refinement."

Some of his favorite collaborations occurred with art director Russ Harden from furrier Birger Christensen. "Russ understands how best to show a product through imagery," says Munro. "Together we created some amazing campaigns featuring hand-painted backdrops that perfectly set off the product. It's hugely refreshing to work with talented set, makeup, and creative directors."

For his photograph of pop singer Mary J. Blige, Munro knew within minutes how he wanted to portray the artist. "With editorial work you don't always know what the subject is going to look like that day or what he or she will be wearing. Creative directors give great direction, but until artists walk into my studio, I cannot fully visualize how best to photograph them." Blige showed up that day with blonde hair and the fashion stylist placed her in a white outfit (above, left). "With her wonderful skin tone, I knew in an instant that we needed to play things up with a black felt background."

Munro set up a large bank of lights behind himself to produce a softly lit mood. The image appeared on the cover of Sophisticates Black Hair Styles.


At the end of a shoot, Munro produces prints in-studio and sends proofs to the client within 24 hours. For minor touchups, he'll send images to a freelance retoucher, but most post-production work is handled by the client.

Munro oversees archiving in house, scanning negatives with a Microtek ArtixScan 120 tf scanner, making any image adjustments in Photoshop CS, and burning high-res and JPEG files on a CD burner built into his Mac G4. Occasionally, he sends clients CDs with images, but more and more, he's uploading images to their FTP sites.

Despite his obviously digital workflow, Munro remains a film devotee. "I used to shoot both medium-format and 35mm, but when the old Kodachrome was changed, I switched to all medium-format because I prefer the 120 and 220 Ektachrome films. I started shooting with a Hasselblad and have stayed with it. The camera is extremely versatile with its interchangeable magazines, lenses, and viewfinders. Even though there are similar systems now, I feel comfortable staying with the familiar and updating as new models come out. My workhorse is the 503CW with a power winder."


New York City can be a tough place to work, but Munro puts full confidence in his rep, Elaine Korn, for maintaining a steady stream of work.

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