The 10 Minute Exec Portrait

July 17th, 2007

I used to think the 30 minute executive portrait, with lights and no assistant, was a challenge. It still can be if the location is tough or the subject is a little stiff or whatever; often times you never know what the situation will be until you get there. (at left: Microsoft Chief Research and Strategy Officer Craig Mundie)

But this one was a little different. I had a referral through Microsoft public relations: Zeit Magazine in Germany–sort of their version of the Economist–needed a portrait of Craig Mundie. I tend to forget who’s who in the world of Microsoft but he’s one of two guys picked to take over Bill Gates’s responsibilities. I think he makes a lot of important decisions each day.

The Microsoft PR person was very kind when she called (from Germany) for I was very brief. Looking at Monday’s calendar I said “Yes, I’m free, but can we talk in an hour?” I was on deadline for a grant application. An hour and-a-half later she called back–it was well into her Friday night at this point–and we agreed on some basics. I had 10 minutes to make a portrait, a tight face shot to fit the look the magazine wanted and, if possible, some other images. (at right: Walter Seemayer, Microsoft Director of Manufacturing and Industry for the Worldwide Midmarket)

Early Monday, with a little scouting and some set up help from a local Microsoft PR person, I was prepared for Mr. Mundie to come in, smile, look this way, look that way, and then go away. 10 minutes.

But the day wasn’t over for in the world of referrals….well, between Friday and Monday another Microsoft PR person in Germany asked if I could shoot a couple other portraits–since I was on campus. We needed some head shots, some pretend interviews, nothing too dramatic, just basic PR pics. I didn’t know if I’d have the job until midnight Sunday night so I didn’t hire an assistant. I went with a lightweight light kit I had rented and chattered on with the subjects as I lugged the gear around–they even helped carry some. (Helmut Lutz, Microsoft GM, Finance)

What I found so pleasurable with these shoots is I had no idea who these people were until we started talking about how they ended up in Redmond from Germany. Walter is picking up mountain biking, something I once had a thing for, and Helmut kept me laughing and talking so much I almost forgot we had to make some pictures. We talked high school kids getting cars (and parents getting some freedom back), we talked 300 year-old family homes south of Munich, and we talked about what most German reporters want to know: What’s it like to be in America and What’s it like to be in a country run by Bush. Remember, the Germans are generally a little more socialist than the Americans and they didn’t want the Iraq war. And we talked a bit about the American Dream, that if you work hard you will prosper.

Well, I’m working hard and definitely not prospering (financially) but I do enjoy a quality of life many don’t have and the freedom (by and large) to pursue the goals I set for myself. And my work allows me to meet people I probably wouldn’t meet otherwise. Pretty cool, and hooray for referrals!

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