You may recognize Michael K. Williams from shows like Boardwalk Empire and The Wire, but another one of this actor’s endeavors is as ACLU’s celebrity ambassador to the Campaign for Smart Justice, against mass incarceration. Williams linked up with the New York City-based photographer Joey Lawrence, known as Joey L., for a one-day portrait session to promote this cause.
An entire day sounds like a lifetime with a celebrity subject, especially when so many shoots like these often last just a few minutes, but this session moved pretty quickly—they bounced from a loft space, to Joey’s studio, and finally landing outside, on location at a fire escape outside a Brooklyn building. They needed to be as prepared as possible for the actor, so Joey and his team set up, lit and executed every single portrait with a stand-in before Williams arrived, settling on their settings and positioning their gear beforehand to save time.
But because it’s Michael K. Williams and he’s awesome, he and the crew made the shoot a fun little “competition” of sorts. Seeing the first test shot of Jesse, one of Joey’s stand-ins, Williams said, “Woah… I don’t know if I’m going to be able to top that.” From there it was on, seeing who between Williams and Jesse could look the best in each setup.
Photographing actors is a little different than shooting anybody else; on the one hand it can be a little intimidating, but on the other, it’s almost easier. Give them broad strokes, Joey says, “then within those scenes, it’s his job to convey those emotions for the viewer.”
One more pro tip: Joey attached a GoPro to his camera to catch the behind-the-scenes action for this video. It’s one way to get dual footage without needing a supplemental shooter.