Whether she’s photographing models, celebrities, or everyday people, Jayne Wexler creates portraiture that exudes warmth and compassion, drawing the viewer in to that special connection between photographer and subject.
This talent for creating interactions, along with her passion for advancing her craft, have kept Wexler’s work on the pages of Vanity Fair, Glamour, and Country Home, on The New York Times best-seller list, and creating ads for many of the nation’s top advertising clients for some 20 years.
Perhaps the key to Wexler’s success is her reassuring, easygoing manner, which serves her well as she encourages her subjects to let their guard down and be themselves.
“Part of my challenge is to get people interacting with each other and loosened up on the set,” says Wexler. “In no time at all, they’re talking about their lives, their families, and before we know it we’re all talking, I’m shooting, and we’re having a great time.”
Behind the Images
Three defining collections of her images, her books of stunning black-and-white photography, with text by Lauren Cowen—Daughters & Mothers, Girlfriends, and Grandmothers—are powerful examples of Wexler’s talent for capturing young and old, celebrities and everyday people, in a way that moves viewers to empathize and to relate.
Similarly, her high-profile national ad images capture people from all walks of life with equally engaging candor—a big plus for clients who favor a personal approach to selling their brand. Editorial clients, as well, turn to Wexler for artist and celebrity portraits that show their subjects in a relaxed and natural light.
As is immediately apparent by looking at the images in this article, Wexler has a penchant for shooting in black & white. “My three books are all black & white, while much of my commercial work is in color,” she says. “I love black & white because it’s classic, timeless, and shows a pureness of light.”
Light and Natural
On the subject of light, whether Wexler’s shooting with her favorite Hasselblad or experimenting with the latest digital cameras, she considers lighting her number-one creative tool.
“Every situation is different, and usually I won’t know how I’m going to light it until I get there and see what I’m up against. I love using natural light when I can. If I want a more dramatic look, I’ll use strobes. Often I’ll mix the two.”
For location shoots, she uses Dyna-Lite heads and packs—”I love their portability”—as well as Plume wafers, Photek umbrellas, a Gitzo tripod, and a supply of good jokes. When necessary, she rents a Profoto Pro-7b with a few heads and extra batteries—”despite the fact that they’re very heavy.”
For simpler outdoor shoots, Wexler brings a Lumedyne portable strobe, Photoflex reflectors, and a Scrim Jim. Wexler uses 4x8 foamcore to bounce and block out light, and a 12x12 diffusion scrim, indoors and outdoors, for bigger productions. “I also love the Elinchrom Octabank. It’s a beautiful light source.”
As for her cameras of choice, she captured all the images for her books and most of her assignment work with a Hasselblad 503CW, with a 501C for backup. Her favorite lens is the 120mm macro, and she also uses the 50mm, 80mm, and 180mm.
In keeping with the times, Wexler has been experimenting with a variety of digital cameras. “After shooting with the Nikon D70, Canon EOS 20D, Canon EOS-1Ds Mark II, and a Hasselblad H1 with a Leaf back (my favorite!) for the past year or so, I am about to buy a Canon 5D with the 24-70mm lens and the 70-200mm lens.”
The Past Is Prologue
As studio manager for Barbara Bordnick in the 1980s, Wexler was exposed to all facets of running a photography business, which has proven invaluable.