the first person to ever hire me for a job was stuart spalding, then at the face magazine. i was so excited that someone actually wanted to work with me. the first time he called he asked me to photograph alan vega of suicide. as a young grunt i would have been extremely happy shooting just about anything. the next few times stuart called he asked me to photograph equally experienced older gents and while they were interesting to meet, i very often found the shoots that made their way to me, the beginner photographer, rather challenging. there was so budget, no location, no groomer or stylist or money for a studio or lighting. i don't necessarily want or need any of those things to make a great portrait. but if none of those things are even options then a great subject or some sort of affinity to the sitter is key. those sort of inspirational stories tended to go to more experienced photographers so i found myself in that weird paradox where the inexperienced newbie often gets handed the most difficult shoots to be shot under the most challenging circumstances with the least amount of budget. but i was just happy to be working.
at some point i worked up enough courage to ask stuart to consider me for portraits of people other than aging men. thankfully he took it in good humor and actually listened. one of the best assignments he sent me soon after was to photograph philip seymour hoffman. boogie nights had already come out in the states and was about to premier in england. i was so impressed how seymour hoffman had managed to play such a weak and vulnerable character like scottie, who was such an emotional and messy embarrassment, but didn't embarrass himself in the process. he arrived alone at my 6th floor walk up in the lower east side and was game to try anything i asked him to do. he was such a good sport and even wore some tiny, tiny t shirts and cut off jeans doing a few poses that were intended as a send up of the calvin klein "porno" commercials that were running at the time. posing next to a step ladder and all! i still can't believe i asked him to do that! in the end i only submitted frames from the above shot as i thought he deserved more dignity than an easy laugh. just as he was leaving he quietly asked he if he could see the photos afterwards and gave me his number. i couldn't believe philip seymour hoffman had just given me his phone number! i was so amazed by that encounter and yet in some way too intimidated to show him the pictures that i never called him.