American Crime Story Is Kaleidoscopically Colorful with Pari Dukovic
“You can’t make this stuff up!” the adage goes, telling us that the truth is sometimes stranger – or more dramatic – than fiction. Ryan Murphy has spent a career telling dramatic fictions, but there are stories from our real world that are just as captivating as the fictions he’s shaped. American Crime Story makes television out of true crime stories that are too big for a single TV movie, and this season the show examines the drama around the Assassination of Gianni Versace. An all-star cast tells the story of a murder, a family shattered, and a would-be celebrity turned serial killer. FX, the home network of the show, invited Pari Dukovic to photograph their official photography and the extraordinarily cinematic and kaleidoscopic images are as honest show itself: everything you see is real.
In this age of photography, artists rely on retouching and processing to add colors and manipulate imagery to make it larger than life, but Pari didn’t need to do that. He captured everything “in camera.” In a single image of Penélope Cruz, who pays Donatella Versace, Gianni's sister, shades of purple, blue, red, and yellow light skate across the actor, each color carefully placed and calibrated by the photographer. Recoloring photographs isn’t easy by any measure, but capturing this kind of rainbow in every image for the project is a totally different kind of challenge. Pari did this not only by placing lights right where they needed to be, but balancing color temperatures and intensities so the exposure would be perfect. By controlling the colors in this tenacious way, Pari was able to harness of the breathtaking variety of colors and textures at the Versace mansion in Miami, where much of the shoot took place. The mansion is resplendent in tones, details, and surfaces that would threaten to steal focus from any subject including a Hollywood A-lister. But not on Pari's watch - he negotiated between all the different visual demands to let them all play in harmony, drawing us into the story he's telling.
The composition is bigger than the constituent parts, and although Pari could have artificially fashioned these results through a kind of visual fiction, he instead went with an honest execution. He could have made it up, but he didn't. He did it for real.