Herald’s Q&A: Nick Wall

Herald’s Q&A: Nick Wall

By: Jason Sheppard

Internationally renowned photographer Nick Wall shares details on his passion and process. 

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You could say that international photographer Nick Wall has quite the eye. During his distinguished career as a celebrity portrait photographer, Wall has also become one of the entertainment industry’s most talented behind-the-scenes stills photographers. 

Wall, who’s based in London, has captured moments from shows such as Game of Thrones, Downton Abbey and others. 

In addition, Wall is a motion-picture poster designer who has designed posters featuring Meryl Streep, Jude Law, John Malkovich, Michelle Pfeiffer and many others. Wall spoke to The Herald about his work and process.

Where did your interest in photography begin?

My father was a photography enthusiast. He had a darkroom and introduced me from a very young age. As a teenager I hardly went anywhere without a camera. Not something I do these days.

Besides having a talented eye and tack-sharp mind for capturing that moment, how do you establish trust with an individual or crew? 

I’m very easy going. On a film set you have to put your ego aside, as you are quite low on the food chain. Crews then trust you to be in the right place at any time and not interfere with the job they are doing. 

On one-on-one photo shoots, I like to make the sitter the most important and not my style. If it’s for a film campaign, then the film is the most important. The sitter knowing that I understand the project and what is needed to achieve this.

What is your approach in making a subject comfortable? How long does the average photo shoot last?

Be confident, build trust that you know what you’re doing and what the aim of the shoot is. 

I enjoy it most when it’s a cooperative session, both the sitter and the photographer working together to achieve something both can be happy with. Sometimes it can be five minutes, other times half a day. You can be hired to shoot for a whole day, but you have to be prepared to achieve something in ten minutes.

Can you describe what a stills photographer does? When do you know you’ve captured that right memorable moment?  

A stills photographer on movie sets takes the images that are used to market the film around the world. Often the images look like they’ve been lifted from the film, but are in fact taken by a photographer. 

One also covers behind the scenes pictures of the director and other VIPs. Having read the script, I have some idea of what kind of image the project needs, but most of the time one is simply trying to achieve the best possible image from the scene being covered in front of you. 

I’ll have an idea I’ve got the image I wanted when I take it, but can’t be sure until I get to the computer and do my first technical edit. 

Any dream individuals you haven’t photographed but would love to.

Sometimes you have to be careful what you wish for. It can be a big disappointment to meet someone who’s work you admire and only to find that that person isn’t very nice. 

Having said that, I would love the chance to work with Frances McDormand. Such a talented and powerful actress with unconventional looks and mannerisms. 

Of course, I wouldn’t say no to photographing legends like Robert Redford, Clint Eastwood, the list is endless.

In your poster designs for Dom Hemingway and Color Me Kubrick it looks like the actors are having a ball. Does this help with the final product? 

There is no single route to the poster design process. If on set photographs are used, the designer will go through all the photography and choose images to make the poster with. 

With special shoots, the ideal scenario is that the designers will have come up with some concepts and I will shoot the images to fit those concepts. 

Other times a designer hasn’t been involved early enough and I will make images that I think might work. Such as the Don Hemingway poster where the red chair was in a scene we shot in the south of France and I insisted they bring the chair back to London for the special shoot. I tend to think it is fun.  

I believe most talent know they are fortunate to be involved in a job that is such fun. I always have to remind myself that it’s a privilege to do what I do for a living.

Newfoundland is an area known for its incredible scenery. What would it take to get you here to capture some magic? 

I would love the opportunity to photograph beautiful Newfoundland. The easiest way of course is if someone hired me to take pictures of your wonderful area or I got a job in or close to the area. 

To see more of Nick Wall’s work, you can visit his website www.nickwall.com

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