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The Great Performer, a traditional celebration of movie stars, has been a tradition in The New York Times Magazine since 2004, when silver-screen icons such as Scarlett Johansson and Scarlett Johansson appeared. Bill Murray decorated the page. The portfolio included a streaming show and the face of TikTok as the theater closed last year.
This year’s issue is “A Return to the Great Performer,” said Amy Kellner, senior photo editor for the magazine. Los Angeles, New York, Paris, Tokyo. The portfolio will be published online this week and will be visible this weekend.
“Ruben has a great shape,” Kellner said of Afanador’s approach. “He has a timeless style, and it looks like some of his photographs could be from another era.” In the set, there is an angle of his German expressionist style. In the background, she said, Afanador is a “gentle” person who uses music to “enter the space of collaboration with actors.” On Thursday, March 24, before Oscar, a show featuring these photos will take place at the Los Angeles gallery Fahey / Klein.
In an interview, Afanador shared the role of music in his process, the challenges of shooting remotely, and his favorite moments on the set. His answer has been edited for clarity.
This is a great performer issue. When subjects are sitting for photography, they basically act for both the camera and the photographer. How do you get the best performance?
I told most of them that they really want to be somewhere between the moments and the emotions that somehow reflect the role they represent in the film. It was great not only for each one to concentrate on the experience and oversee them, but also to see what they bring to it. It was a very beautiful group effort. Everything felt very honest and pure.
Why did you choose to play the music of film score composer Max Richter in a loop while filming?
Music is a very important aspect of me when shooting someone. Listening to Max Richter’s music is like going into a trance. Whenever I’m preparing to get started, I ask the subject that I’m filming if I want to hear something else. It was so interesting that no actor in this portfolio wanted to hear anything else. I was surprised because they all loved music. It was so beautiful, it felt like a movie, and I was surprised that everyone felt the music as I did.
Was there anything amazing that happened on the set?
When I filmed the twins Josefin and Gabriel Sans in “Petit Maman,” it was really fascinating to see their inner connection. It was a beautiful surprise to see how incredibly they existed at their age and how incredibly professional they were. Everyone on the set was very fascinated by them.
I took a picture of Hidetoshi Nishijima remotely in Tokyo. How is remote shooting different?
Last year, I started hearing that remote photography was taking place, and I was skeptical because I saw the results in magazines and editorials. I felt that the image I saw was missing, so I felt I would never do such a thing. The photographer felt like he wasn’t with the subject. For schedule reasons, I decided to shoot remotely in Tokyo. For the first time, it was as if I was swimming in the dark. It was fascinating. It was incredibly nervous. I couldn’t believe I was sitting in the New York office late at night and working in the studio with the crew in Tokyo. There were two cameras. One is the whole space and the other is the camera I was trying to shoot.Click from the keyboard You’ll see the exposure right away and give instructions, so whether you want to position the camera at a different angle or height.
But when I was in front of my subject, I realized that I was projecting my energy not only to the subject, but also to the crew and collaborators. To make up for the fact that we weren’t there, I had to speak more, more, louder, more and more intentionally. It was amazing that it was possible and everything seemed to match the other images we did. But these are the elements you always take for granted. Unless you say, “Oh, this was done remotely,” no one would notice.
Do you have a favorite photo from your portfolio?
From the first time I saw Gaby Hoffmann in the movie, I was fascinated by her beauty. For me she evokes everything. She was one of the subjects I always wanted to shoot. On the set, she was like the ultimate muse. He was an incredibly beautiful person to take pictures.