One fixture at June’s annual Provincetown International Film Festival, which is celebrating its 20th installment from June 13–17, is photographer Henny Garfunkel, whose 20 portraits of festival award winners are on display this week at Provincetown’s The Schoolhouse Gallery.
I’ve worked many times with the veteran New York photog, who grew up on Rhode Island and moved to New York in the ’70s before she began shooting celebrities at festivals. When we were covering Sundance for Entertainment Weekly, she memorably immersed “Bound” stars Gina Gershon, Joe Pantoliano, and Jennifer Tilly in a Park City hot tub. I asked her to talk about shooting the iconic indies she has gotten to know so well.
“I came up here for the summer in 1983, and had a shop where I sold jewelry and t-shirts by my friend Keith Haring. John’s boyfriend at the time worked across the street, and I met John. We became friends. I see him when he comes to New York, he stayed at my house, I stayed at his house, I’ve gone to his Christmas parties. I worked on two of his films, ‘Hairspray’ and ‘Cry Baby,’ doing unit photography. John does all the Q & As for the Filmmakers on the Edge. He’s one of the smartest people I know; he’s the real deal.”
“It’s a small festival–it’s gotten bigger every year. Very relaxed, like Sundance was years ago. Of course Christine gets a phone call. I threw a basketball at her, she started playing with it, she’s on a cellular phone — it’s so Christine. When do you not see her not the phone?”
“I was given a room upstairs from the gallery in 1999, when the festival started, where I was photographing Christine and Alan Cumming. The first year I just shot black and white.”
“He’s looking like a Ray-Ban ad. He never takes his sunglasses off. He’s looking very handsome there. I shot him a few times, also for ‘Ghost Dog’ in Cannes with Forrest Whitaker.”
“We were at his press day in 2008, and I found this wooden background and started putting people there and did my portraits, it was easy. He’s got a very intense, kind face.”
“He was complete rock star here in 2008. He could not walk down the street; all sorts of people were coming up to him. He was gracious with everyone. He had a great time here. I was a little– ‘I don’t know about him’ –but he was fun.”
“She had this blue dress on. I said, ‘Lay in the grass.’ If I get five minutes to connect with someone, I don’t think about it, it’s one of those visceral things, I just know how to get it. A lot of these people I’ve known for years, I’ve shot Gael and Chloë at Sundance, Toronto and Cannes. They know me, I know them. I try to make a little magic happen in the time allotted me.”
“The car was waiting; she was leaving town. She had just presented a film she was in. They were leaving. I had no place to shoot. It was right on Main Street: ‘where am I going to do this?’ ‘Just lay down here.’ It was just five minutes.”
“She won an acting award in 2010. She wore not a stick of makeup. B. Ruby Rich does the interviews with actors. I’ve shot Tilda many times; I first met her in Cannes in 1997.”
“I put her on the grass looking up at me. I literally straddled her to get this 2012 photo, my feet are right there. She’s wonderful, I’ve known her since ‘Party Girl’ at Sundance in 1995, many years.”
“I was in the spot that I use a lot now, where they have a filmmaker press day. So I set up in this corner with wonderful lighting. I like to shoot with natural light. He has the most intensely blue eyes, so blue. Yeah, he looks a little scary, but he’s not scary at all.”
“I think he looks very ‘Splendor in the Grass’ there. He lives in Portland, Oregon, and comes to Provincetown sometimes. [His producer] Christine Vachon comes very year.”
“He hates getting his photo taken. For many years I know that. He knows me, I met him years ago with John, photographed him. In subsequent years he’s become more relaxed.”
“I’ve been going pretty close with people lately the last few years. I like to crop the top of their heads off to add dimension. I went real close, she was beaming, I had her tilt her head a little bit so her hair would fly away so we see her whole face.”