This past February, portrait and fashion photographer Emily Malan had the exciting opportunity to photograph Quinta Brunson – the creator, star, and executive producer of ABC’s documentary-style sitcom, Abbott Elementary. Emily’s photographs of Quinta (and her home) were featured in an article for The Hollywood Reporter.
A Philadelphia native who took classes at Chicago’s Second City outpost before migrating to Los Angeles in 2014, Brunson has been amassing acting credits (iZombie, Single Parents, Miracle Workers) while selling scripts. Her workplace comedy […] even has Hollywood talking about linear TV in a tone that doesn’t resemble pity.– Mikey O’Connell, The Hollywood Reporter
Quinta’s character in the show, Janine Teagues, is an optimistic teacher in a Philadelphia public elementary school, who often takes matters into her own hands to combat the lack of funding from the school district. Trying to fill her own void of absentee parents, the character strives to form connections with her students (and a mother-figure co-worker).
The morning of the photoshoot, Emily – who is based in both New York and Los Angeles – received a call from Tristan Cassel, a photo editor at The Hollywood Reporter. Emily was given the call time and exact location: Quinta’s LA home, where she was to photograph the subject in her creative office.
With these assignments, I sometimes get photos of the creative space before the shoot so I can get an idea of what I’m working with. Going into a space without seeing how it looked first is always tough, but I find it easy to think on the fly and solve problems quickly.
Emily arrived an hour early in order to set up and test the lighting. As Quinta finished her phone interview – pausing to acknowledge Emily – Emily spoke with the team on set, which included a makeup artist, a hair stylist, and a wardrobe stylist. She also worked with Quinta’s publicist on scouting the workspace.
Quinta was very nice and so cool to be around. She was very welcoming, especially since we were shooting in her home.
Quinta’s home office was decorated with mementos from the first season of the show, which Emily made sure to document. The title of Abbott Elementary appeared on the cover of a coffee table book, embroidered on a hat on the bookshelf, and engraved in a sculpture of a clapperboard. There was even a fan-made crochet doll, seated on the arm of the sofa. These snapshots exhibit the proud displays of Quinta’s work.
As with any photoshoot, it was important for Emily to connect with her subject, in an effort to create a level of comfortability and ease on set. When Quinta had to get back in the chair for hair and makeup, they were able to make small talk, which felt easy and natural.
Since it was around the time of the Super Bowl, we talked about sports team colors and how she likes Blue and Yellow for UCLA/ the Golden State. We also talked about our hometowns; she shared that she’s still a Philly fan.
Much like Quinta’s character of Janine Teagues, Emily strives to leave a positive impression on everyone she works with, which is shown through the relationships she has maintained with other creatives in her field. For instance, she first began photographing for The Hollywood Reporter at the end of 2021, after collaborating with their photo director Ash Barhamand, at Women’s Wear Daily.
Work is all about building relationships. I think doing more of these types of photoshoots gives photo editors and publicists confidence that I’m not going to be unprofessional around actors and Hollywood executives.
When she isn’t shooting locally, Emily Malan travels worldwide with clients such as Vogue Italia, Teen Vogue, GQ Style, and more. Some of her recent subjects for the Hollywood Reporter have included Director Rawson Marshall Thuber, TikTok star Brittany Broski, and MGM’s Motion Picture Group President, producer, and film executive, Pamela Abdy.
Make-up Artist: Renee Loiz
Hair Stylist: Randy Stodghill
Wardrobe Stylist: Bryon Javar
Publicist: Joelle Onukwubiri @ Persona PR
Creative Director: Peter Cury
Photo Director: Ash Barhamand
Photo Editor: Tristan Cassel