Ruedi Hofmann and Perri Hofmann on their exclusive photos of the Jonas Brothers
Earlier this month, I had a nice visit with Ruedi Hofmann and his daughter, Perri—who is a high school senior and an avid photographer—at their home in Harlem. They live in a light-filled brownstone that Ruedi and his wife, food photographer Ann Stratton, recently finished renovating and that doubles as a workspace for all three (the couple’s son, Drew, also lives there). Listening to Ruedi and Perri talk, it was clear that besides their familial bond, they have a wonderful creative connection, and while Ruedi is a mentor to Perri, Perri is also an inspiration to her dad.
During my visit, Ruedi and Perri told me about a project they worked on together. When editor Matthew Rettenmund commissioned Ruedi to photograph the Jonas Brothers for the June/July/August 2007 issue of the magazine Pop Star! at Industria Superstudio in the West Village, Ruedi invited Perri, who was then 16 (she’s a high school senior now) to join him. The Jonas Brothers photos that Perri took have never been published, nor have father and daughter gone on record about the shoot. Till now.
Ruedi, tell me about the shoot we’re seeing here. What was your concept/approach? And how did you get clearance for Perri to shoot with you?
I’d been working with a teen magazine, Pop Star!, as a way to stay in touch with new talent and personalities. The editor, Matthew Rettenmund, called about the Jonas Brothers. I didn’t know them, but my 16-year-old daughter did. Perri is a great girl—mature and with a strong photographic ability. I thought it would be fun to do this together, each of us photographing. I cleared it with the magazine beforehand.
I always research who I’m going to photograph and then come up with a list of shoot ideas. I run them by the magazine, leaving options open. That way, when we get on set, things are not “too floating out there.” It’s easier all around for everybody when it seems like it just happens. The big surprise for me was the Jonas Brothers and Perri. They are really nice guys—correct, respectful and with a helpful attitude. But I was stunned at the difference of their engagement to Perri’s camera compared to mine. Leaning into the camera, trying very hard to shift positions to make a better picture. It was funny to see. They were nice to me in front of my camera, but they performed for Perri. It’s probably too why they gave us so much of their time—an afternoon and into the evening.
Can you guys tell me how it worked? Ruedi, did you shoot for a while, and then Perri would shoot? And back and forth like that?
To break the ice, I started with simple portraits of each of them, then stepping aside and Perri would come in. As it went on, she might begin, or I would. Each watching the other and learning and building off of what we saw for our own pictures.
Ruedi, you mentioned to me that your and Perri’s directing styles were different. Can you elaborate?
It was very nice to watch her work. Perri worked at a calm pace, directing some, talking some. But what surprised me is that she took her time. Composed. Not hurried. And it engaged them in a very different way. I tend to really lock in on who I’m photographing—I’m vocal, directing the subject, directing assistants about the lighting, trying to build momentum. She really opened my eyes that day to who she could become as a photographer.
Ruedi, what kind of camera were you using? And Perri?
H2, all tethered, ball and chain. Perri with her Canon Rebel.
Perri, can you describe what appeals to you about photography? Since your parents are both photographers, what aspects of the profession intrigued you, and what parts made you think, Maybe I’d like to be a veterinarian after all? (I’m joking with that last bit but serious about the question.)
It was never a conscious decision for me to pick up a camera. I grew up in the Meatpacking District, coming home to my parents’ studio full of stylists, assistants, models, and food. When I was 12 years old, I started to photograph my neighborhood and the cobblestone streets. Eventually, I started to carry a camera everywhere, then later photographing my friends, and in high school photographing the local teen music scene. I love being in the middle of chaos—photographing it makes me even more a part of it. I love the performance of photography along with those things that just happen. I know that it’s pretty crazy to go into the business now, but that just makes me want to go for it that much more.
Ruedi, tell me what you have coming up—new projects, new goals?
I’ve learned from Perri, and we have great discussions about photography. She’s helped me get back to doing what I used to do—easier pictures that come from my core. I’m back to bringing energy into my work. A few years ago, I decided that “I don’t want to be funny anymore,” to quote from Woody Allen’s movie Stardust Memories. Well, I want to be FUN again, and make it fun, easy. And I am enjoying myself. I’ve started photographing my new neighborhood, Harlem. I love it. It’s a great neighborhood and special. I’m shooting motion spots again, using the RED camera and HD formats with Final Cut. And I have a few personal projects lined up to make new images for my website, http://ruedihofmann.com/, which I just launched.
To view Ruedi’s online portfolio at Stockland Martel: http://stocklandmartel.com/hofmann
To see more of Perri’s work: http://www.flickr.com/people/perrihofmann/