The Hollywood Reporter, after initially finding Anya Chibis on Wonderful Machine and hiring her for several shoots, recently contacted her again about capturing celebrity portraits at the Toronto International Film Festival. The assignment: one festival, six hours, thirty portraits. The magazine had reserved an entire restaurant to conduct interviews with actors, writers, and directors. There would also be videographers and sponsors demanding the attention of the celebrities. The Hollywood Reporter wanted Anya to take quick portraits in between interviews and the chaos of the festival events. Needless to say, this was a herculean task — one that Anya took head-on.
Shooting for The Hollywood Reporter during the festival was one of the most stressful jobs that I have ever done. But, I managed to remain very calm during the shoot.
Anya was initially told she would have her own room for the shoot, but when she arrived, she found the sponsors had taken over the space. She ended up with a little corner of the restaurant. To find a better solution, she roamed the space, discovering little spots, corners, and unique backdrops to photograph the celebrities in. This made each portrait look a little different.
The client didn’t want a studio shoot, they wanted the beautiful natural light portraits that I do. It ended up being more of a location shoot, just in one location.
However, this was not the cause of Anya’s aforementioned stress. That came from the fact that most of the celebrities were not prepared to volunteer their time for a photoshoot. Their day was full and their busy schedules made them antsy.
The challenge was to get a good portrait in a matter of minutes, sometimes even seconds. I just had to make quick, on-the-spot judgement calls. I used different tactics like small talk, flirting, and sometimes just standing back and snapping what I could while they moved on.
Anya was happy to have captured some beautiful and relaxed portraits under such harried circumstances. When I asked who her favorite subject was, Anya found it hard to pick just one. However, she eventually singled-out director Sally Potter as one of the most memorable and pleasant to photograph.
She’s a former ballet dancer, I believe, and also had a dance company. There was just a certain grace about her, how she just sat down and how she moved. She managed to move away from the craziness of the place while I was shooting. It seemed like she was completely one-on-one with me, which was very special. She totally dedicated herself emotionally for the shoot.
Another memorable subject was actress Elle Fanning
She was fantastic — an incredible sweetheart and very patient. She also made herself available and it resulted in a beautiful portrait.
Anya says that working with The Hollywood Reporter is always a great experience because of their amazing team that is headed by Photo Director Jennifer Laski. The magazine ended up using Anya’s photos for special, daily issues of the publication, released in Toronto during the festival. Several of the photographs were also published in their monthly issue.