Joe Pugliese and David Letterman Get Real
When Joe Pugliese headed to David Letterman’s new show on Netflix, 'My Next Guest,' the goal was to photograph images for key art – those are the pictures you see on posters and billboards to advertise for a show. Scheduling didn’t permit Joe to plan a shoot outside of the schedule of the show, so Joe had to fit his photographs into moments when Letterman had time during the filming of his first episode. Normally in these situations, the subject would meet Joe for a day separate from their shooting schedule, but that wasn’t possible. Joe leaned into his agility to get it done. That slight inconvenience ended up creating a situation that Netflix wanted to keep going. Joe did more than just get portraits: he followed Letterman around the set, on field pieces, and with guests like Barack Obama, Malala Yousafzai, and George Clooney. He photographed a documentary of what it’s like to make this new show, and what it’s like to watch Letterman work.
“Once Netflix saw what the work looked like, the producers and publicity department of the show thought this would be a nice thing to continue to document,” Joe explains. “This is a big return of an iconic television figure people are going to be interested in what it looks like behind the scenes.”
The Late Show with David Letterman was a TV staple for more than two decades, but being a part of a major television Network, Letterman had to perform to a set of standards that was guaranteed to sell time to advertisers. His show on Netflix doesn’t have the same constraints. “This is more introspective, it is talking about peoples’ legacies, meaningful things in their lives,” Joe explains. “This combination of portraiture and reportage underscored that’s something very meaningful to me. Something that I thought was a really nice to cover, to round out what is normally just a portrait session.”
When Joe started off as a photographer he worked in reportage and then moved over to portraiture. With My Next Guest, Joe has been able to use all of his skills in both arenas to create work that’s revealing and intimate and gives us deeper insight by delivering moments with Letterman and his guests. “It’s been an eye-opening journey into a new approach and it’s exciting,” Joe says. “I have the foundation for it and now I just want to flex that muscle more.”