“Seeing the girls was like looking myself in the mirror. The feeling of following your passion, with the risk of being disappointed, was something I could relate to immediately.”
He was therefore able to really connect with his subject; to gain trust and get access to some of the most intense moments. And this is one of the keys to getting great backstage footage, he says.
Perhaps obvious, Laurent describes the most intense moment of the shoot as being that of the final night. “
From the boot camp to drastic elimination – their lives change overnight. There was so much intensity, anticipation, happiness and despair. I wanted all these emotions to come through in my work. For me, portraits are always about emotions.”
Laurent describes the whole experiences as “humanist”, almost like a scientific experiment. Documenting as much the inner as the outer beauty of his subject, he was constantly on the lookout for moments that would reveal their true feelings. Giving equal attention to all the contestants only seemed fair, but that meant no rest during the day, and very few hours sleep (when not editing photos). But that is the challenge and beauty of producing work that needs to go out online, almost in real time.
For this particular shoot, Laurent tested out the Nikon D7100. Working without a full frame was a challenge, he admits, but the superlight weight made it easy to get around, and the double SD card slot allowed him to stay “in the shoot” for more than a half day. He used an 18 – 55 mm zoom lens, and a couple of different prime lenses: 28mm f2.8 / 35 mm f2.0/ 50 mm f1.8 / 85mm f1.4. He brought an SU-800 auto focus assistant – a necessity when shooting in the dark backstage areas.
If he could do anything differently, he would have chosen to carry even less gear, which would allow him to be even more reactive. “In reportage, the camera should be an extension of your body – packing and unpacking gear will only slow you down, and you might miss precious minutes and seconds.”
His main advice to other photographers working in similar jobs: know your subject. “Shooting behind the scenes involves an act of journalism and it is important to acknowledge that it is not about you – you are just there to document.”
© Laurent Segretier