GEAR & TECHNIQUES HOW I GOT THAT SHOT
CLIENT: The New Yorker;
CREATIVE: Genevieve Fussell,
senior photo editor.
CLIENT: Fast Company;
CREATIVE: Annie Chia, photo editor
WHEN EDITORS CONTACT JEFF BROWN,
they know they’ll get something witty and
colorful. Typically editors use images from
his website to explain the look they’re after—
whether the assignment is for a food shot or
a portrait. He achieves his look in part
through lighting. “Technically, it’s a hard
light and a hair light,” he says. He also likes
the effect he gets from mixing warm tungsten
light and cool strobes, and experimenting with
the color temperature of each. “The warmth
appears closer while the cold recedes,” he notes,
calling this a “classic way to create depth.”
He has been mixing light sources since
he began building his professional portfolio.
“When I first started shooting outside
of college, I could use only what I could
borrow,” he explains. One friend had an Arri
kit, another had strobes. At first, Brown says,
“It wasn’t a style decision as much as it was:
I have these lights to use, and I always want as
many lights on hand as possible.” As he began
shooting portraits, Brown, who never uses
diffusion, found that he likes the crispness of
tungsten lighting: “Tungsten is more pleasant
on the skin.” Using gels to balance the color
temperature of his mixed light sources led
to further experiments with adding color.
“Using gels is an attempt at painting,” he says.
For The New Yorker, Brown went to Chicago
to photograph philosopher and author
Martha Nussbaum. Photo editor Thea Traff
and Brown talked before the assignment
about how to avoid the expected shots of an
academic and writer. Rather than photograph
her in a book-lined office or at her desk,
Brown photographed Nussbaum at home, in
her apartment overlooking Lake Michigan.
After getting some photos of the philosopher
seated, he removed a table and asked her to
stand in the middle of the room.
“I also asked her to take off her shoes at one
point,” he recalls. The dressy shoes made the
portrait “more about what she was wearing.”
The New Yorker ran his photo of Nussbaum in
her bare feet as the opener to a profile. “I think
it made her more approachable and made it a
more intimate picture.”
For an article in Fast Company about why
Ikea is expanding its popular food service,
Mixing tungsten and daylight, Jeff Brown creates
portraits and still lifes with color and verve.
IN TERVIEW BY HOLLY STUART HUGHES
ABOVE: On assignment for The New Yorker, Jeff Brown used a strobe with a warm gel to light Martha Nussbaum’s
face, and a tungsten light for the rest of her. The ungelled strobe on the wall behind her cast a blueish light.
Mixing warm and cool tones is “a classic way to add depth,” says Brown.