Mark Mann's Single Setup Portrait Shoot

by Lindsay Comstock

February 12, 2014

Mark Mann, a photographer known for his dynamic celebrity portraiture, recently turned his lens on Art Basel attendees in collaboration with Leica and Hahnemühle papers for a “living art exhibition” at the famous Miami Beach, Florida, art fair.

Mann shot nearly 100 different portraits in six hours with a single setup, using subjects (including children and two dogs) who had registered in advance to have their portrait shot by the accomplished photographer. Mann shot with the medium-format Leica S series digital camera, and the portraits were then printed on-site on Hahnemühle FineArt photographic paper and displayed outside the Trendy Studios space for the duration of the art fair. The subjects each received digital copies of their portrait.


"Chris Harris." All photos © Mark Mann


Because Mann says he approaches each subject with the same attitude—whether it be the U.S. President or a stranger on the street—his only real challenge for this particular shoot was to find a lighting scenario that could be flattering on all of his subjects. He opted for a single setup: the Leica S camera with 120mm lens, Profoto light kit, two strip banks (one as key light, one as fill) and he shot everyone at f/5.6 or f/8 on a black background. He restricted the shoot to six to eight frames per person.


“Stephanie Gomez.” 

Of the project, Mann says, “With a portrait you are always trying to get something from someone that they aren’t willing to part with. I think maybe 20 of the portraits are good. And maybe three of them are really good. Which is a really great average.”


“Robert Karafel.”

He continues, “I couldn’t think of a better way to showcase the Leica S series camera (than by shooting friends and the public). It’s amazing, it’s easy to use and the lens is fantastic.” He added that a single battery lasted the entirety of the portrait shoot. Mann says he plans to use the Leica S as his new “workhorse.” He’s looking forward to shooting his commercial work with “a tool that makes it easy and more efficient and is guaranteed to work and give consistent results without any surprises.”

In a related Leica event in December, Mann lectured about this project and his career at Highline Stages in New York City.

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