Xtra Xtra


Facing Life with Photographer ANDREW BRUCKER

By Tyler Malone

Summer 2013

Film director Federico Fellini once said of faces: “Everybody has the face that suits him best (one can hardly have any other), and all faces are always just right. Life makes no mistakes.”

This quote, by way of epigraph in Andrew Brucker’s new photography book 8 x 10, acts as an introduction to Brucker’s beautiful black and white portraiture. 8 x 10 exhibits a collection of some of the best of Brucker’s head shots that he’s taken over the years of famous actors and actresses.

Initially, as we learn in the book’s introduction, Brucker wasn’t 100% into the idea of becoming a head shot photographer. “It wasn’t my thing,” he says. “I didn’t like how they looked.” He fancied himself a fashion photographer, and it just wasn’t the kind of work he was looking for, but, as Fellini said, “life makes no mistakes.” So here we are, a few decades later, and we have in front of us this lovely book 8 x 10 where we find head shots of a young Alec Baldwin, a young Robert Downey Jr., a young Naomi Watts, etc.

Tyler Malone: Tell me how you got started in the business…

Andrew Brucker: It was the early eighties and I was just back in New York from living in Paris for a couple of years. I had been testing models up at Elite the agency and unbeknownst to me a woman who worked there, Davien Littlefield, had been aware of me for some time. She was in the business of helping models become actors. So one day when I was hanging out on a Soho street she approached me and introduced herself. She handed me her card and asked me to call her at the office. She had a proposition. It was to take head shots of her clients.

TM: Originally, I know you were a bit ambivalent towards getting into that world, as you considered yourself a fashion photographer. But then she convinced you to do them and “make them better.” How did you go about making them better and making them your own, putting your own personal stamp on head shots?

AB: I think my education and my appreciation for all the great photographers I admired infused my own work with a certain aesthetic that I brought to my head shots. I looked around at the shots I would see in the Greek coffee shops and elsewhere and I thought they needed freshening up. It’s often the case when you try something with no preset notion of how to do it, that you come up with a fresh approach. I loved natural light and I loved classic portraiture so I started there.

TM: You quote Fellini on faces at the beginning of your book. I found that quote so intriguing in the context of a book of head shots of actors. One thing I started thinking about was how so many actors end up altering their faces through plastic surgery or botox or whatever. Most of your photos in 8 x 10 are of actors in their early years, but some in your book have certainly had work done later. What say you? Does “life make no mistakes”?

AB: That’s a great question and when I used the quote it was something I did take into account. Fellini loved faces. He often used non-actors for their looks alone. Plastic surgery was probably something he came across from time to time and I’m not sure if he would have hired an actor who had altered their face, but I think if the shoe fit he might have. It certainly wasn’t as prevalent then as it is now with botox and all. But you could argue that if a person changes their face in a way that “suits them best” (Mickey Rourke) they could in the end “hardly have any other,” and that this face would be “just right” for them. And so this idea that “Life makes no mistakes” still applies, even though most of us see it as a horror.

TM: Exactly. However a person alters their face those changes would then suit them in a new way. It’s a great, interesting Fellini quote, certainly. And I keep thinking also of Cassavetes and his film Faces. What is it about faces that so fascinate us?

AB: Clearly it is where all thought and emotion express themselves. It can be done without moving or speaking, just by virtue of how the face is constructed. The eyes alone can transfix a viewer and people have fallen in love with a person for their mouth, nose, etc. It’s pretty primal and a powerful thing.

TM: I suppose the question everyone would want me to ask is who was the easiest actor to shoot and who was the most difficult?

AB: I swear I never had a problem with anyone in this book. I love what I do and I always made it clear that it was my turn to entertain them. They responded in kind. That said, you had people like Alec Baldwin, Robert Downey Jr., and Kevin Spacey, who loved performing for the camera and made it way more fun for me. Winona Ryder, Naomi Watts, and Andie MacDowell–the same thing. However, Philip Seymour Hoffman, as I wrote about in the book, didn’t like the process and comically tried to cut the shoot short. But you had to love him anyway. And I got the shot.

TM: I know Frances McDormand refused makeup and said, “just shoot me like a boy.” I found that so interesting because your shot of her included in this book seems to me to be one of the more feminine shots of her that I’ve seen. How did you pull out that femininity while still “just shooting her like a boy”?

AB: Well, it was something she said, and I found it and her charming. She was truly feminine in a tomboyish sort of way. Frances was already with Joel Coen I believe, and she had great confidence in who she was. I found her face to be very pretty in an interesting way and she and I felt that makeup would negate her very essence.

TM: In talking about Naomi Watts you said, “I knew she would make it…I never understood why it took Hollywood so long to get her right.” Have there been other actors that you shot that you were shocked never made it? That you just felt they had that magic but then it never happened? I imagine there must be many?

AB: Yes, there were many that I photographed over the years that were so cool and interesting, but you know, so many things can derail a career. Loss of focus, substance abuse, and just giving up. I think though, that it’s hard to keep the real thing down.

TM: Tell me a little about how this book came about. And where people can pick it up?

AB: I had a story In LID Magazine that got me the book deal, but I ended up with a different publisher and I got the book I wanted. You can find it at the following stores: Rizzoli, Dashwood Books, St. Mark’s Bookshop, Strand, McNally Jackson, Crawford Doyle Booksellers, 192 Books, ICP, Spoonbill and Sugartown in Williamsburg, and Diesel Books in L.A.

Andrew Brucker is a Manhattan based photographer. His new book 8 x 10 is available now.


Andrew Brucker Official Site

Written by Tyler Malone

Photography Courtesy of Andrew Brucker

Design by Marie Havens


Cover/Page 1:

Andrew Brucker, Book Signing, 2013, Photography Courtesy by Andrew Brucker

Page 2:

8 x 10, Book, (Left) Photography by Andrew Brucker

Alec Baldwin, 8 x 10, Book Cover, (Right) Photography by Andrew Brucker

Page 3:

8 x 10, Book, (Left) Photography by Andrew Brucker

(Right) Frances McDormand, 1986, Photography by Andrew Brucker

Page 4:

8 x 10, Book, (Left) Photography by Andrew Brucker

(Right) Kevin Spacey, 1986, Photography by Andrew Brucker

Page 5:

8 x 10, Book, (Left) Photography by Andrew Brucker

(Right) Marisa Tomei, 1986, Photography by Andrew Brucker

Page 6:

8 x 10, Book, (Left) Photography by Andrew Brucker

(Right) Robert Downey Jr., 1985, Photography by Andrew Brucker

Page 7:

8 x 10, Book, (Left) Photography by Andrew Brucker

(Right) Andre Braugher, 1988, Photography by Andrew Brucker

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