Even in the digital age, many people still get nervous sitting in front of the camera for a formal portrait sitting. Unless the subject is a model or actor or used to being scrutinized by the lens of camera, many people get uptight and stiffen up. According to Bill Lulow, photographing the rich and famous might be the same as photographing people who are not household names. All people can be rendered somewhat equal under the intense gaze of the camera lens. Lulow says he has never treated photographing well known people any differently in terms of his preparation. He does note, however, that with someone well known, he tends to do more homework on finding out who they really are behind their public image. “I want to get them talking about other things other than just the photo session.”
Asked to name three people who he would like to photograph, Lulow says “Hillary Clinton.” (She happens to be a neighbor in Chappaqua.) Lulow was impressed with the five-part interview she did with Howard Stern, where he saw her much more as a real person instead of a politician. He’d love to photograph Jane Mayer, The New Yorker writer and author of Dark Money, because she has put her finger on the pulse identifying why America has so many problems right now. And then there is the master blues man Ry Cooder, because Lulow loves his music and has followed him for decades.
If Bill Lulow’s imagery was illuminated by his love of music, what happened to his music? Like every other young man living in America in the 1960s and 70s, he fancied himself as rock star. He certainly played a mean guitar. He recalls a specific place and time when music receded in the background and photography ascended, becoming his most passionate pursuit. Back in Madison Wisconsin, when he was in college, he played with the musician Steve Miller, who had briefly gone to school there. After a few sessions, Bill Lulow couldn’t talk. He had lost his voice. “I knew then I didn’t have what it takes to sing.”
Recently when Bill Lulow was listening to an interview with Graham Nash, who is also a photographer, he was reminded of the “magical” experience of seeing a print emerge in a developing tray in the darkroom—that is the same way he felt about the experience of making photos when he was young—it was magical. Lulow says if you want to get good at something, you have to do it a lot. There are no shortcuts. He says he still plays the guitar. He also likes to play golf, but to improve his game, he has to hit fifty balls a day. Someone like Tiger Woods hits 1,000 balls a day. “I didn’t have the interest to play guitar that much,” he says. “But the first Hasselblad I had, I damn near took it to bed with me.”
William Lulow specializes in portraits and commercial photography. He provides the greater New York City area with top quality photography for advertising, public relations, event and individual use. He also strives to educate photographers through his workshops and blog. For more information, please see his website.