Cincinnati-based photographer Egan Parks is a fashion and portrait photographer whose clientele has ranged from classic clothing brands like Levi’s to newspapers like The New York Times. While he’s known for his clean, polished portraits, he’s learned that getting his hands dirty can be an essential part of any assignment.
When Egan photographed actor Steve Zahn, who appears on popular HBO hit series The White Lotus, for the Hollywood Reporter, he knew he wanted to blend his own style of portraiture with an authentic snapshot of the well-known actor. He opted for shooting both digital images and film to highlight the perennial nature of Steve’s other passion: farming.
For this shoot, Egan was contacted by Ash Barhamard, the Hollywood Reporter’s visual media director. The publication was featuring Steve in their section entitled “About Town,” which highlights actors and their personal interests so they wanted Egan to capture Steve at his own home. The actor lives on a 360-acre horse farm where he gardens and raises horses, goats, and sheep.
On the day of the shoot, Egan drove about an hour to Steve’s farm on the outskirts of Lexington, KY. Once he arrived on the farm he was greeted by the subject wearing his finest farmer attire: a flannel and a pair of mudders. As Egan learned that morning, recent heavy rainfall in the area created lots of mud on the farm, never the best thing for a photographer to encounter on shoot day. Fortunately for Egan, the worst of the rain itself was long gone by the time he was ready to go.
I was devastated when I saw the weather! It was pouring rain in Cincinnati when I set out, but luckily once we arrived the sky cleared up and we had a nice, evenly lit day to shoot outdoors.
Venturing out in muddy, wet conditions can not only lead to a photographer damaging an expensive piece of equipment, but it also puts them at the mercy of all types of variables that can’t be controlled. While Egan had some anxiety about what kind of setting they would be able to shoot in, he was prepared and brought a white backdrop as a backup plan.
We can’t control the weather but we can make sure that we have contingency plans in place and try to not freak out if the weather or locations aren’t what you hoped they would be.
Egan was instantly impressed with Steve’s incredibly relaxed demeanor and thought he was a pleasure to work with. Once they had a bit of time to get to know each other, his concerns over the weather quickly dissipated.
He was honestly one of the most real and open people I have ever met.
After initial introductions, Steve offered to drive Egan and the crew around on his four-wheeler to scout the fields surrounding his farm. The off-roading journey was obviously enjoyable but, as Egan quickly discovered, also enlightening.
Off we go with Steve Zahn on a four-wheeler through the Kentucky landscape. What we noticed right away is how passionate Steve is about where he lives. He cares about his land, his neighbors, his family. It’s all very genuine and personal for him.
As such, Egan needed to ensure the photographs properly captured the experience. Not just in terms of the look of the place, but the feeling of being there with Steve.
I knew I wanted to get a simple and timeless image of him, but after meeting him I quickly realized that the landscape would need to be a part of that in some way.
Tending land as a farmer is an annual process, one that is not easy to keep up with when off shooting in Hawaii or LA. Steve’s dedication to his farm connects this jet-setter to a sense of time and place, where he can use his hands to cultivate skills and create meaning for himself and his community. Egan’s imagery helps convey the agelessness of this agricultural profession, and when it came to selecting the images, the client went with three options that were all shot on film.
For all of the memorable imagery that Egan got out of this shoot, the most valuable takeaway for him was the time spent with Steve. In all, it added up to the kind of assignment that any photographer would dream about.
Steve gave us even more time than we asked for, brought us water, and changed clothes so we would have some variation to the images. He could not have been kinder or more helpful and getting to meet and spend time with someone like that is always such a gift.