Jack Davison directs a portrait of ‘Willem Dafoe’.
Conversation with Jack below.
Willem Dafoe has a deep connection with art and cinema: In capturing this portrait, what had you previously seen of Dafoe’s work that guided your process? What were you responding to from the time you spent with him on set?
I had seen Willem in At ‘Eternity’s Gate’ so had an inkling he may have picked up a few painterly skills on set. I always find it’s helpful to give subjects something to do, to take them out of the reality of the photo studio. We built a few canvases and documented him painting.
I always find it’s helpful to give subjects something to do, to take them out of the reality of the photo studio.
We didn’t have a huge amount of time, but James Beattie (Cinematographer) and I have worked on a lot of projects together this year, so we are used to making the most of our limited time, and each other’s processes.
The project captures an artistic process involving spontaneity and inspiration. How long did you have to work with Willem? And how did you organise the shoot?
We were originally only meant to be working on photographs, Willem has been top of my wish list for years, and I didn’t know if I’d ever have another opportunity to work together – so we asked whether he’d be comfortable making a short film alongside the stills. Thankfully he approved our last minute request! We had about 5 hours together in Rome.
Many of the ideas I have for my photographs often involve moments of spontaneity and play, these often work well for motion too.
Many of the ideas I have for my photographs often involve moments of spontaneity and play, these often work well for motion too. This year I have devoted myself to learning and working on motion. I still feel like a newbie but it’s something I’ve always thought about since I first picked up a camera. James and I tend to work alongside each other documenting similar moments.
You are also an established portrait and documentary photographer, are there any differences in how you think about, or approach, the filmmaking aspect of your projects? And specifically on this project, between the final selection of stills and the film?
I’d found that more and more clients were including film elements and I often felt a bit of a charlatan trying to turn out films for commercial shoots. I found the process deeply unsatisfying- hence dedicating this year to try and grapple with it more thoughtfully and purposefully. There are definitely crossover skills, but it’s also a very different beast.
With film, I have really started to enjoy the fact that there are a lot more cooks in the kitchen…
With my photographs the selection process is very much my own solitary process, my partner Agnes usually weighs in on the final selection but all in all it’s quite quick and to my own devices. With film, I have really started to enjoy the fact that there are a lot more cooks in the kitchen, so whether it’s James, or Toby Tompkins in the grade, each collaborator brings something to the final article, and that process is elongated but I’ve started to enjoy that delayed satisfaction of seeing the piece come together.
What are you reading at the moment?
I usually juggle something fantastical with something trickier. So currently, ‘The Leopard’ by Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa and ‘Best Served Cold’ by Joe Abercrombie.
- Director of Photography
- Staci Lee
- Set Designer
- Production Company