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In Sync

by Peter Brew-Bevan, 1 June 2004

Peter Brew-Bevan discusses two experiences where his plans for his portraits produced surprising results.

Naomi Watts, 2003 by Peter Brew-Bevan
Naomi Watts, 2003 by Peter Brew-Bevan

George Gregan Freshwater Beach, NSW

Like all my shots, I believe the key to getting the best portrait is to understand my subject. So I like to sit down with the people I am shooting and 'get to know them' prior to the shoot.

The shoot with George was no different, it was a warm afternoon on Freshwater Beach and George and I sat in the sand for half an hour before the shoot and chatted. It was then that I realized that he was not just a rugby 'pin-up boy', but a highly intelligent deep-thinking individual.

With this in mind I set about trying to capture the contemplative side of George.

He was a humble guy who didn't enjoy all the attention of stylists, assistants and grooming fussing around him, so in the end I took George away from the rest of the crew, and this is when I captured the shot. There were only the two of us at the end of the beach when he sat down and started watching the surf. While I was loading my film I picked up my second camera and started shooting before he was aware, and this is the result.

Naomi Watts Melbourne 2003

Photographing Naomi was a logistical challenge. The shoot was scheduled in Melbourne, my team are based in Sydney... red-eye travel is never fun!... the set had to be built unseen via phone instructions and any last minute alterations had to be completed within the 30 minute grace period we had before Naomi arrived.

9am on the dot Naomi entered along with her agent from LA. She didn't look happy. Before any 'hello's' were said her agent blatantly advised us that Ms Watts is ill with the flu! Great! Chaos reigns! I quickly organised a fresh pot of tea and took it into Naomi at which point she smiled and apologised for being unwell and not in the mood. We sat and chatted, running through my main concept of reproducing a Victorian painting style portrait. I discovered that this woman is very, very visually aware, understanding my concept instantly and then discussing lighting choice etc. Very switched on!

The shoot ran perfectly from then on. Naomi was the ultimate professional, a true star in my eyes. What I am happy about most with this portrait is that I captured not only her innate beauty but her fragility. My first thought upon seeing Naomi was... you look like a little child. She is very petite - almost child like.