Work, Journal

Dr. Jordan Peterson for Esquire

Woof, where to begin on this one. Doctor Jordan Peterson, photographed at the Marines’ Memorial Theatre in San Francisco for Esquire. Dr. Peterson is a polarizing figure: a professor at the University of Toronto, he writes on the intersection of neuroscience, evolutionary biology, and philosophy. He had been called the most influential public intellectual alive; his Youtube lectures have tens of millions of views. He is also a believer in the evolutionary nature of social hierarchies, refuses to recognize gender neutral pronouns/identities, and largely chalks up gender bias to evolutionary norms. This makes his work and teaching beyond unnerving for equal rights organizations, and myself.
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Peterson’s PR team permitted the shoot, then seemed to call it off, then ghosted, then green-lit the shoot with less than 24 hours notice. I knew a moderate amount about Peterson going into the shoot, as I find it’s helpful to arrive educated, but without complete bias towards a subject. After accepting an assignment, I don't believe my agenda should trump the publication that has hired me (I also mostly shoot people eating yogurt in sun-dappled orchards + seldom get commissioned to photograph polarizing figures). ⠀⠀⠀
We were given access to the jet-black backstage area of the theater, and 20 mins with Dr. Peterson. I looked around and immediately noticed there were no orchards or dry grassy fields for him to lay in, so I settled on some hard, crisp lighting that my assistant, Dane Pollock, and I could quickly move with. He had obviously been photographed enough to know his angles, so we expediently moved through the setups you see here.

A good friend saw these and rightly remarked that they look nothing like my work, which is quite true. The orchard references are half-jest, but there are many situations where your location, allotted time, budget, or **other** means you need to pull from your bag of editorial tricks. Or, you end up in a dark backstage dressing area with 20 minutes and you need to riff. For me, honeyed sunlight wouldn't be contextually appropriate to the image; lord knows I love it. That said, I’m still sorting out how work like this fits into a broader place in my portfolio, if I should be ok #slidinginto2018 in new visual styles, if I should show it once and leave it out to float away. Anyway, here are some photos.