Joe Pugliese's SNL Dream Team
Just this past week, Saturday Night Live celebrated its fortieth anniversary. It was a landmark event not just for those who have been involved with the show all these decades, but also for generations of fans. When a show is on television for as long as SNL has, there are millions of viewers who have literally grown up with the sketches, personalities, and musical guests. Entire careers have been bookended by performances on the sketch comedy show, all on the stages of studio 8H.
Photographer Joe Pugliese has been a fan of the show for years, so when he got the call to shoot dozens of actors and writers with connections to the show for The Hollywood Reporter, he leapt at the chance. One of Joe’s signature artistic choices is to enter the photographer / subject relationship with as little information as possible; he likes to discover his subject in real time without all the baggage of a public persona. Since Joe has followed the careers of all these people for years, he had to approach it from a different direction.
Even if you’re not a fan of SNL, these faces will be familiar to you. And each of these men have signature personality traits that come through in the photographs. “Alec Baldwin was very amenable and charming, Tom Hanks had a lot of fun with it, Steve Martin sort of showed some kind of Vaudeville looks,” says Joe. “Christopher Walken didn’t talk. I made a little direction towards him and he just looked at the camera. That was just perfect Christopher Walken. Everyone kind of fell into their own personal character.” Each of these moments can have different meaning depending on what you bring to it as a fan, or as a photographer. For Joe, it was a thrill because he was interacting with everything he knew and anticipated. It was his viewer experience made real. “Working on this project kind of confirmed what I thought [SNL] was.”
In addition to pulling aside these most prolific SNL hosts, he also got to shoot some of the most significant writers from the history of the show. Meeting and shooting Conan O’Brian, Bob Odenkirk, and others, meant Joe got to sit with the creators of some of his favorite sketches. “It was a nice way to get them all together and represented in a story like this. It’s not all about the people in front of the camera,” he says. As much as we get to see the play and fun in front of the camera, there are just as many people in the writer’s room who are working with the same fervor and excitement. “It really is the dream of every single one them. No one there took it lightly. I think every single person realized at the time that they were living out a dream.”