Amanda Marsalis' M.O.
The trick to taking intimate portraits is trust. When Amanda Marsalis shot Jaime King for People Magazine, they had already created a rapport. Amanda, whose directorial debut Echo Park was the crown of the LA Film Fest, met Jaime at a party long before they came together for this project. “She was very sweet and wonderful to me at this large party and I was looking forward to seeing her again,” Amanda says about their meeting. “Jaime likes intelligent, successful women. She’s really supportive of other women.” The entertainment is, in many ways, a boys’ club. It doesn’t take much more than looking at any given year’s Academy Award Nominee list to see that women are underrepresented, so it could only help Jaime and Amanda to come together to create beautiful work.
Right off the bat, on the first shot, Amanda turned the camera around to show Jaime how the shots looked. And Jaime was instantly won over. “It was a really awesome to start the day,” says Amanda. “She immediately started to trust me because she liked the photograph, and then for the rest of the day was just smooth sailing. Everyone knew I was there to make her look good.” That “everyone” included Jaime’s child, her husband, team, and even Amanda’s dog, Queso – who is generally pretty trusting as it is.
For Amanda, building trust has never been difficult. That’s because she doesn’t have any ulterior motives. Unlike some other artists who want to leave their mark with wild interpretations and crazy ideas, Amanda just wants to make beautiful work. “I’m trying to make people look their best selves, I don’t want them to look different than who they are,” Amanda explains. “I don’t have an agenda except to take what they’re willing to give me.” That collaborative process means that both Amanda and her subject arrive at the final portrait together. Amanda needs them as much as they need her. The images are created in the space between them, they are a reflection of the trust that the photographer and model build. That’s always been where Amanda does her work, in that relationship. “That’s sort of my M.O.,” she says.