Pantone: Can you tell us a little about your background in photography?
Sarah Silver: In my family artistic creativity was something that was always encouraged. I’ve always had a camera in my hand for as long as I can remember. My grandfather was even a professional portrait photographer. Hence, the concept of shooting studio photography and darkroom printing was something I was very well versed in from an early age. As a young girl I used to sit on a bench in the living room for him during midnight portrait sessions. The following day we would go down to the basement to develop the film and print it. I was mesmerized by these early experiences in photography, and it made perfect sense for me to take on the family “business,” so to speak.
I always believe that the best photos stem from the photographers’ passion for the subject matter. In my case, I always wanted to be a professional ballerina but I lacked any actual skill for dancing or memorizing dance step combinations. Photographing movement of all forms creates a way for me to be a dancer without ever breaking a sweat. Instead, I am able to collaborate with the dancers and really be a part of the creation of the movement.
Pantone: How did you become involved with Pantone’s 2014 “Make it Brilliant” campaign?
PDN Photo Annual Winner: “Make it Brilliant?” photographed by Sarah Silver
SS: I remember where I was standing when I got the call from my agency telling me that Sub Rosa was asking for me to come in for a meeting to discuss the project. I did a little dance and then hopped in a taxi and headed towards their office. The entire concept blew me away. Literally, I walked out of the meeting with my head full of visuals and my imagination running wild. Pantone color is something we utilize every day in the studio, from Color Guides to Swatch Libraries on the computer.
It’s really fantastic to bring to life a campaign for a company like Pantone that so many artists and creatives use on a daily basis.
Pantone: Lighting played such a major role in this campaign. What type of camera/lens combination did you employ to achieve this look?
SS: I shot with a Canon 5D Mark III with a 45 mm lens and a shift lens attachment to make all the shapes perfectly “square.” The camera was locked down on tripod and shot at a high ISO (800) and at 1/320th of a second to freeze the motion.
The lighting was one of the most interesting aspects of creatively building this campaign, because of the fact that they were so different than what photographers traditionally use for stills shoots. Once the lights were physically moved into place they were controlled by an operator on a main control board. I felt like I was in some sort of high-tech light show. The art director, Diego, would say “more cyan” and then the lighting tech would push a button and move a dial and voila: more cyan!
Pantone: What was your reaction to finding out you were chosen as a winner of the PDN Photo Annual 2015?
Lighting Setup Pantone Make It Brilliant
SS: It’s an honor to be included in the PDN annual because I am in the company of the best of the best photographers. Every winner is a true photographic visionary in their category. What’s more, winning with a dance photograph is completely validating for me personally. When I was in Graduate school at SVA I focused on dance photography while getting my MFA. I was often asked, “Is there any way to do anything new and different in the genre of dance photography?” With the images from this campaign I can say “yes” beyond a shadow of a doubt. I’ve never seen this before and being able to say that makes me proud.
Pantone: What can we expect from Sarah Silver photography for 2015 and beyond?
Behind the scenes Pantone 'Make It Brilliant' photoshoot by Sarah Silver Photography
SS: There are so many exciting developments in 2015 – and while I can’t talk about most of them specifically I can say that I’ve been asked to really break bounds with extreme movement in my work. It’s amazing to be considered a movement expert, and what that means on set is a ridiculously good time that’s super high-energy and fast-paced.
One project I can talk about is the Paul Mitchell’s 35th anniversary “Live Beautifully” campaign. It was a killer combination of art and beauty, and at the airport coming back from a long shoot in LA I saw it in print on the first page of People Magazine’s Oscar Style Issue. I almost fell over! I don’t think I’ll ever stop loving the feeling of seeing my work out in the universe; I always get a little giddy.
I’ve also spent a lot of time in 2015 mentoring and teaching movement to photography students at universities all over the country. There’s nothing that has taught me more in the last 15 years of shooting than when my students make me think hard about a particularly tricky question on timing and action. I love having to think on my feet and problem solving with them all the challenging aspects of shooting motion.