Because so many of Mark Mann’s striking celebrity portraits are taken from just a few feet away, he’s often asked, “Why so close?”
“I’m not exactly sure where that idea of getting so close to my subjects came from. The simple answer is that I don’t like to have to shout to talk to people so—over the years—I’ve moved closer and closer. If you’re more than a few feet from someone, the nuances of what you are saying can be lost. And I always try to have a conversation to help make a connection with everyone I am photographing.”
He may start out four or five feet away from a subject but “bobs and weaves” or “creeps” (as he terms it) closer to three feet or so while chatting and shooting. “That means the camera can be just 24 inches from a person’s face, or smelling distance,” says Mann. He never uses a tripod because he’s always moving, changing his distance and angles.
He also shoots close up because he enjoys shooting wide open, explaining that helps give a dimension” to his images. “They have a shallow depth of field, but I like that they almost feel three-dimensional,” he says.
“There’s another reason I like shooting close,” says Mann. “I just love faces. I love looking at them. I can inspect every detail, every angle of a face when I’m just a few feet from someone as I look through my lens. I could never get that close without the camera in front of me.”
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Robert Kiener is a writer in Vermont.