Amanda Marsalis Won't Trick You
There’s much more to an image than the contents of the photograph. It’s not just the set and the subject, it’s a captured moment. A slice of time frozen in form. Every element, whether it shows up directly in the silver or pixels, is a part of that moment. Everything must be considered.
When Amanda Marsalis welcomed Lizzy Caplan, star of Showtime’s “Masters of Sex” and the cult classic "Party Down," into her home for the cover of Bust Magazine, Amanda knew that the shoot was starting off with the perfect tone. “At my house I’ve photographed Jason Scwartzman, Lizzy, a few different lookbooks, Julie Delpy, and it always ends up being a nice, more intimate experience,” Amanda explains. “Maybe somebody who has their guard up lets it down a little bit because they’re actually in your space, and you’re hosting them. And so they’re acting more like a guest.” That gracious, collaborative energy comes through the photos in a feeling of intimacy. Amanda had already let Lizzy into her world, so Lizzy opened up for Amanda.
When Amanda picks locations for her shoots, she takes all these variables into account. Initially the project was slated to be set somewhere else before it fell through at the last minute. She had chosen that first space specifically. “I knew it basically had good vibes. And it was like a place where every person in the crew would be relaxed and have the space they need,” she says. Luckily, they were able to find the same elements in her home. “Every element is an important part of making sure you have good photos. Especially when you’re doing a cover and you have a few hours and you want everyone to be happy,” she explains. When everyone is relaxed and comfortable, that permeates the image and creates a better story in the photograph.
This way of working isn't a trick. She's not managing the emotions of everyone in the room for the benefit of the photograph. Instead she's inviting everyone along with her. That relaxed energy is kind of Amanda's thing. And she gets it through the collaborative spirit. "I always get permission to take my photographs and that’s why there’s an intimacy to them. It’s something we’ve agreed upon and we’re entering it together," she explains. "I’m not taking anything from anybody, and I’m not tricking anybody." Amanda doesn't have to hide behind manipulations and tricks. She shows up to work and invites her subjects along with her.