Rosamund Pike photographed at Jasmine Studios, London, September 2006
Harry Borden recalls the shoot: “For me, improvisation is a vital part of the creative process. When I’m shooting a portrait, I enjoy looking for something that hasn’t been done before and ending up with images I hadn’t anticipated. I believe it’s better to react to what’s around you and riff off things, because then you get the unexpected. That’s what happened when I did a portrait shoot of the actress Rosamund Pike in September 2006. I had been commissioned to photograph her for the Sunday Telegraph magazine, to illustrate an interview. At the time, she was 27 and in the early stages of her successful screen career, following her debut in the Bond film Die Another Day four years earlier.
The shoot took place in Jasmine Studios, which was a studio complex in Shepherd’s Bush, West London. It was a great location which had really good daylight, which I generally prefer to use, and was equipped with lots of other light sources. I arrived at the studio at 9am with my assistant, and was met by a stylist and racks of clothes to use in the shoot. While I was waiting for Pike to arrive, and afterwards when she was in hair and make-up, I anxiously paced around the outer areas of the studio. Whenever I do a studio shoot, I always walk around the immediate area to see if there are interesting places I can use.
While I was wandering upstairs, I found I could get access to a mezzanine floor that looked directly down on the studio. I wondered if I could use that viewpoint in the shoot. As I had the whole morning to work with Pike, I did a variety of different shots, from tight close-ups of her face to wider shots where she was just one of many elements in the picture. I mainly used daylight, but in some I used a big Octa softbox for flattering light and a Quantum flash, which gives a much harder light.
Pike is genuinely beautiful, with almond-shaped eyes. I thought she looked like a kind of British, prim Brigitte Bardot. Her experience as an actor means she’s comfortable taking direction and adopting a range of personas, poses and facial expressions. She’s very intelligent, but at the same time there’s a kind of brittle coldness about her. As the shoot progressed, I was pleased with the pictures I’d got, but still wanted to try shooting from the mezzanine floor. I took some shots of her from that viewpoint, sitting in a chair surrounded by lights. Then I decided to try a simpler image with her lying on the floor with the tangled black cables of the studio lights at the top of the frame.
I would be embarrassed about asking somebody to lie on the floor unless I was sure it would make a really good picture. Making someone feel uncomfortable would be excruciating for me. It was just a question of having the strength of my convictions and asking her to do it. As it turned out, she happily agreed. She lay in different positions, but the one I liked most showed her looking to one side, with her arms above her head and both her hands and feet crossed. The pose in this picture is relaxed and psychologically submissive, but the fact that she’s crossed her hands and feet suggests she’s keeping something back.
Rosamund Pike is beautiful and famous, so any professional who photographs her really has to get something good. However, although there are lots of portraits of her around, this one is special to me. It was later included in the RPS International Print Exhibition for that year. Even if it had been a more lavish shoot, I don’t think I’d have got a better picture.“
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