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Eddy Chen - Stories behind large canvases
Reading time: 15 minutes - April 25, 2024 - by Christina Thomas

Schnappschuss 68: Stories behind big screens

From the new Schnappschuss : "Behind the Scenes"

All Photos by Eddy Chen, courtesy of HBO.

Films and series have a fascination all of their own: they offer an escape from everyday life, transport us to other worlds, make us root for our favorite characters and tell unique stories. Photographer Eddy Chen works where many of these stories are brought to life.

Photo: Eddy Chen. Abel Tesfaye (The Weeknd) in his role as Tedros in The Idol

With his behind-the-scenes photography, he provides unique insights into Hollywood productions such as Euphoria, Glee, Animal Kingdom and The Idol and has long since made a name for himself in the industry with his unique style. We are all the more grateful that Eddy took the time for an interview with us and gave us an exclusive look behind the scenes of a professional film set and his very special style.

Eddy was practically born with a passion for photography: "My father was an enthusiastic amateur photographer," he tells us. "While other children grew up with toys, I was given his old cameras. So my love of photography was awakened early on."

The love of photography remained. "Photography is the best way for me to express my creativity. It keeps me sane. I feel strange if I don't take at least one photo a day." However, Eddy had not planned his career as a set photographer. When he moved to Los Angeles in 2007 to work as a professional photographer, he started out as an assistant in the entertainment industry: "I never had any intention of becoming a set photographer, but the entertainment industry is huge in Los Angeles. I was shooting a lot of bar mitzvahs and weddings when the opportunity to shoot on the set of a TV show came up. The transition happened almost overnight."

Over time, Eddy quickly made a name for himself in the industry. Particularly thanks to his unique style, which could be admired at the Leica Gallery in Los Angeles, among other places. The special feature: all of the pictures shown in the exhibition from the set of the HBO series "The Idol" were taken analog on 35mm film, exposed with a Leica MP and a Leica M7.

Photo: Eddy Chen. Director Sam Levinson in conversation with cameraman Marcell R?v during the filming of the 2nd season of Euphoria
Photo: Eddy Chen. An unedited photo during the filming of The Idol
Photo: Eddy Chen. Lily-Rose Depp in her role as Jocelyn during the shoot for her album cover in the opening sequence of The Idol

In general, Eddy feels at home with analog photography. "I think it's also a bit nostalgic," he says. "I grew up with the old analog cameras that my father gave me."

For him, the excitement always associated with analog photography is particularly special. This is because, unlike digital photography, the finished image is only visible after development: "Sometimes you already had an idea of what the image would look like, and every now and then there are pleasant surprises or happy accidents."

In addition, analog photos have a very special aesthetic appeal for him: "For me, it's simply more aesthetically pleasing than a digital photo," he tells us. However, his focus on analog photography is in no way intended to replace digital photography: "I don't think it's about going back to film, but about reminding people that there is another option or another creative approach to a project than just digital."

Eddy takes a photojournalistic approach to his work: "I find that the most beautiful motifs are those that lie between the poses. The moments when the person is relaxed and behaving naturally," he says.

These shots that come from the moment itself are what make Eddy's work so special. "I want my pictures to be authentic and genuine. I want the moments in between to be simple, and I want these moments to trigger emotions in the viewer. I want the viewer to have the feeling that they were there. I often get the best images just before the director calls action, when the actors are getting into character, or just after he calls cut, when they come out of character."

Eddy's pictures tell the many stories behind the stories we love so much. They allow us a glimpse into a world that would otherwise remain hidden, capturing the unique atmosphere behind the scenes.

However, the more journalistic approach that Eddy takes also comes with some challenges: "I would say that the hardest part of my job is building a relationship with the talent and gaining their trust. I want to be allowed to take the kind of photos that you wouldn't normally get. Before I start photographing, I always observe the room very carefully."

Being present enough to capture the right moment without disrupting the shoot is hugely important on the set of a professional film and series production. After all, there's a lot going on here and a lot more people involved than you might initially imagine: "It really does take a small village to produce a TV series," reports Eddy. "There are so many departments involved (production design, set decoration, props, hair & make-up, sound, grips, camera...) and so many talented people working together to create the final product we see on screen."

A good working relationship with the whole crew is therefore particularly important for Eddy: "As photographers, we are part of the camera team you should endear yourself to. If there is little space available - and that can often happen - they will make room for you. I think it's a rule of thumb to get along with everyone on set. We're all united by the common goal of getting a fantastic end product."

Photo: Eddy Chen. Zendaya in her role as Rue Bennett during a scene in season 2 of Euphoria. The image was later used as key art.

As part of the crew, Eddy once even became an actor himself: "The director Sam Levinson approached me at 'The Idol' and asked if I could take on the role of photographer for the opening sequence of the show. I've been working with Sam for several years, so it was easy for me to say yes. Essentially, I played the role of the photographer shooting Lily's character Jocelyn for her album cover. Sam said: Use your real cameras. It was the first speaking role I'd ever done and it was cool to be in the scene with the lovely Lily-Rose Depp. I got the most amazing photos of Lily in that scene. Just before the premiere in Cannes, Sam texted me saying, "The first voice the French will hear is yours. That was unforgettable."

When asked if he had ever been able to convince anyone on the crew to take up photography, Eddy laughed: "I feel like I'm constantly trying to convince camera trainees, loaders and assistants on the camera crew to change their profession and become photographers." Because working as a set photographer is definitely the best job on set. "You're part of the camera team, but you're not supervised by anyone on set, as you're hired by the studio or the broadcaster themselves, but they're never there. You can quickly get to a point where they trust you to do a good job and give you a completely free hand."

Even though he has already seen many sets in Hollywood, there is still one that would really tickle his fancy. I would love to shoot a Wes Anderson movie! The stories he tells and how he interweaves them with the colors and symmetry he uses are such a spectacle to me," Eddy tells us at the end of the interview. And of course, it has long been clear how he would proceed here: "It would be a dream to capture it all on film."

more info and more works by the artist:

Eddy Chen
Instagram: @likethejetsons

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