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Le présent article n'est pas disponible en Français
February 2009

Canon Ambassador Paolo Pellegrin (Magnum Photos) has just completed a three-month project in which he photographed eight of the world’s best actors and actresses in ‘every day’ situations for The New York Times Magazine’s annual Great Performers issue.

The actors – seven of whom have 2009 Oscar nominations – were Kate Winslet, Robert Downey Jr, Sean Penn, Kat Dennings, Penélope Cruz, Frank Langella, Brad Pitt and Mickey Rourke.

Pellegrin explained: “In early September 2008 Kathy Ryan – picture editor at The New York Times Magazine – came to me with this proposal. It was a challenge to go back to the days of what other Magnum photographers had done over 40 years ago with The Misfits and Marilyn Monroe and Clark Gable. The type of pictures that come out of Hollywood now are much more controlled and you don’t see actors at home or not staged.

“When I got to meet the actors I brought my books and, without any exceptions, they gave a good response and were intrigued to be photographed by a different kind of photographer. To see Sean Penn preparing food at home or Brad Pitt shaving was a challenge, and a gamble, but I think we got a good portfolio. The magazine has received a lot of positive responses,” added Pellegrin

The images were all shot on a Canon EOS-1Ds Mark III usually with available light or “a very simple hand-held flash”, according to Pellegrin.

The portrait subjects were chosen between September and November 2008, well before the Oscar nominations were announced in January 2009. Paolo Pellegrin revealed: “Along with Kathy Ryan the other person behind this was Lynn Hirschberg – The New York Times Hollywood expert and film critic – who made the call on who to photograph on the basis of their movie work and it was a 100% success rate as we knew Kat Dennings would not be Oscar nominated this year.”

When CPN caught up with Paolo Pellegrin he was in Iran on a month-long project documenting the 30th anniversary of the Iranian revolution. “The context is different but the objective is the same – to feel a connection. Everything works and becomes more interesting when I am not just documenting a scene. The connection is universal, sharing a moment that transcends language; that can be with Sean Penn or a person in Gaza.”

To view The New York Times Magazine's multimedia presentation of Paolo Pellegrin’s images of the world’s best actors and actresses just click here.

Biographie: Paolo Pellegrin

Paolo  Pellegrin

Born in Rome, Italy, in 1964 Paolo Pellegrin worked for Agence VU for 10 years before he became a Magnum Photos nominee in 2001 and a full member in 2005. He is a contract photographer for Newsweek magazine. Pellegrin has received many awards for his photography, including eight World Press Photo and numerous Photographer of the Year Awards, a Leica Medal of Excellence, an Olivier Rebbot Award, the Hansel-Meith Preis, and the Robert Capa Gold Medal Award.