For this image, I lit Mel with a film noir look.
Editorial personality shoots are always fun and rely on experience, preparation, collaboration and often serendipity to fit an entire magazine shoot into a half of a day.
Diane Anderson-Minshall, Editor in Chief of HIV Plus magazine and friend for well over a decade, asked me to shoot a cover and inside layout of actor Mel England. This is a big shoot for the magazine, Mel is a very outspoken, inspirational and well-known actor who has lived with HIV for over 20 years. And the magazine is redesigning their logo and cover, so they need an outstanding image for it.
I often don’t get to talk to the person I’m going to shoot, sometimes just to their handlers up until the day of the shoot. Mel called me directly beforehand and we discussed ideas. I had a studio booked, but he also wanted to do something outside. Getting a plethora of very different shots isn’t easy, especially on-the-fly on the day of the shoot. We decided to meet early in the morning near the Hollywood sign, I’d get a few shots of him there and then we’d head into the studio in Culver City.
We had Anton Khatchurian in charge of makeup and hair. He’s amazing, I also worked with him on a shoot with Jodi Lyn O’Keefe. His work is incredible and he’s a very fun, collaborative and calming influence on set.
We shot around the studio (including the kitchen) and against a simple background for the cover, giving him some movie hero-ish lighting.
Mel wore a Superman shirt, perfect for this cover image
We created a great image of him and his husband Tony Wandell and their dogs. For the final shot, I wanted to revisit something I did with George Lucas on a shoot; I lit him (top image) in a way that harkened back to George Hurrell’s portraits of the 1940s, truly an homage to the glamour of Hollywood’s Golden Age. Mel having one of his dogs there with him adds a bit of whimsy.