About 2 months ago I was assigned to photograph the owner of Silvercup Studios, Stuart Match Suna, for Long Island Pulse magazine. Just about anyone who lives or travels in New York City will certainly recognize the iconic sign on top of Silvercup Studios. The studios are located next to the 59th Street bridge and have been a landmark even before it was a film studio. The building used to be home to Silvercup Bakery before the Suna brothers purchased it in 1983. Since that time, Silvercup Studios has become New York City’s largest and most famous (I would assume) filming studios. Some of the productions that are currently being filmed at Silvercup are 30 Rock, Gossip Girl, and White Collar as well as a few new shows coming to CBS. Feature films which have been shot here are Sex & The City, Big Daddy, Gangs of New York, Meet the Parents, and Micky Blue Eyes. Needless to say, these studios have some incredible history.
When I received the assignment, I was told that the magazine wanted at least 2 different photos for the article. One photo was to include the iconic Silvercup Studios sign in the portrait and the other photo was to include some kind of movie set or elements of a film production. I did plenty of research to see what kinds of portraits have been created of Stuart with the sign as part of the photo and did not come across many that really caught my interest. This led me to believe that there just weren’t any good options in the area of the studios to create an interesting portrait with the sign. This is one of the reasons why my arrival time was scheduled 2 hours before I was to meet with Stuart for his shoot. I had plenty of time to scout the studios, rooftop and surrounding area to find the shot that I needed to create. After some time walking around the rooftop, where the best view of the sign was (obviously), I decided to have Stuart stand on top of a ramp which was the enclosure for the stairway from the inside of the building. I was a bit nervous to ask Stuart to climb up onto this steep ramp but, luckily, Stuart is an experienced rock climber and got right up there before I finished asking him.
I created this portrait using a panoramic stitching technique where 3 photos were shot and composited together in Photoshop. I had my assistant Luke hold the Elinchrom Ranger with a 39″ deep octabank on a pole to light Stuart. I wanted to go with the larger 69″ octabank for this shot but it was way too windy up on that roof.
The second portrait that we shot for this assignment was to include a movie set or elements from a film production. Unfortunately, the day we were scheduled for this shoot was basically during the studios’ vacation time, so all the sets and props were in storage and could not be used. We did have access to their lights however, so we used them as background props to give the feeling that Stuart was on a film set. It was very hard not to use a ton of these 10,000 watt HMI’s in the background, since there had to be a couple dozen of them just outside of the studio we shot in. But as they say, simpler is better, so we only used two for this portrait. Stuart was lit with a 69″ octabank from camera right and fairly high to create a little more drama. Also to camera right was a gridded Elnchrom Ranger Quadra aimed at the side of the HMI light. To camera left was a reflector to open up the shadows a bit on Stuart. Behind the reflector was another gridded Elinchrom Ranger Quadra aimed at the face of the light to make it appear as if that light was turned on. Here’s the portrait that we created with this setup.
Here are a couple of behind-the-scenes photos to show how this portrait was created.
And finally, the tear sheets from Long Island Pulse Magazine’s September issue.
The staff at Silvercup were all very kind and helpful in getting me anything that I needed. whether it was the enormous lights, a director’s chair or even just a cup of water. They really made my time there enjoyable. Also, I had the pleasure of working with Chloe, Stuart’s assistant, for the entirety of this assignment. She was very helpful in scheduling, giving Luke and I a tour of Silvercup Studios, and providing any other assistance we needed.