Madame Secretary…Madeleine Albright

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A few weeks ago…just before the entire World was locked down because of the Corona Virus…I was scheduled to shoot Madeleine Albright, the first female United States Secretary of State. She would be in New York on the first leg of a book tour and we were supposed to get a few minutes with her in a midtown hotel room for a WSJ ‘Weekend Confidential’ feature. But the day before the shoot, we got the call…

“To be cautious because of the virus, the Secretary will not be traveling to New York…could you shoot her in her office in DC?!!”

I really didn’t wanna give up the chance to shoot Secretary Albright, so at 6:00AM on March 10th, Kaz and I loaded up the van and took off for Washington…

Upon arriving in DC, we were led to a small sitting room next to her office…

Pretty tiny…but after saying goodbye to the furniture, we had just enough room to set up a couple of backdrops…

For our first portrait, we did a simple, classic, two-light setup with a 20″ Beauty Dish main light and a 5′ umbrella for fill…

When Secretary Albright looked at the laptop screen, she said, “Oh, I can do that!”…..

For my second shot, I had brought along a low-texture grey Gravity Backdrop. I had an idea to do a strongly side-lit portrait that would evoke a slightly darker mood. For our main light, we used a single 3′ strip light placed behind and to the left of where she was sitting and another 5′ umbrella for fill…

Here is the progression of how the lighting evolved…

Our first test was fine, but a little too grey and dull…

We added some warming gels to the strip light, which when white-balanced added an overall blue tint…

That helped, but we then added a couple of masks in Capture One Pro to the upper corners to create a sort of ‘reverse’ vignette effect that lightened things up…

I decided to desaturate the blue and add some more shadow detail, but we were ready.

Madame Secretary…please sit on this apple box…..

The story appeared in last weekends Wall Street Journal

9+ hour round-trip drive…25 minute shoot…done!


12 thoughts on “Madame Secretary…Madeleine Albright

  1. Hello,

    Thank-you for these BTS posts, they are genuinely interesting.

    Quick Twitter related question (emailing ‘cos it’s just easier than tapping into a small twitter window). Your album tweet today triggered a memory. Someone, it may/may not have been you. It was a photographer who posts about music and I’m trying to scratch my head whom it was. Right around the days of Trumps inauguration you may/may not have tweeted songs suitable for his yuge day. One of the songs I seem to remember was “I am the Virus” by Killing Joke. I remember it because I was listening to that album a lot at the time. If it was you (or whoever) it was pretty fucking prophetic. 

    Thought I would ask, I have a lot of time to ponder these things these days.

    Kind Regards James

    PS, I live in a shithole country and our presidents response has been phenomenal compared to that orange lump.

    James Howard-Davies James Howard-Davies | Photography 076 258 3172 |        “Sharpness is a bourgeois concept” – Henri Cartier-Bresson

  2. Brad
    Just saw your Hopkins’ work.
    You are a giant in a mob of midgets.
    Sign me up for your workshop when you have it.

    Well…that makes one of us! 😂 I’ve yet to see a copy and I can’t even find it online…..

  3. Just going out to shoot something, first since the world ended. Will do some snaps and send to you.
    Rembrandt would sue you for that second shot. Killer!!!

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