In Erik Madigan Heck’s series “Old Masters,” the photographer creates portraits of people in their 80s and 90s who are still “at the top of their game.” Commissioned by The New York Times Magazine, the series features 15 men and women, including actors Betty White and Christopher Plummer, filmmaker Frederick Wiseman, architect Frank Gehry and jazz musician Roy Haynes, among others, photographed in different locations over the course of just one week.
Over the years, Heck has developed a distinct “contemporary-romantic” style, and identifies himself as a “painter who uses photography.” His influences are evident in the series, from the baroque lighting of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg to the painterly landscape in which he photographs illustrator R.O. Blechman.
Accompanied by an essay by Lewis H. Lapham and interviews conducted by Camille Sweeney, Heck’s portraits capture his subjects in their natural environments. 81 year old long-distance runner Ginette Bedard, for instance, is photographed in athletic wear near her home in Howard Beach, Queens, while 85 year old naturalist and author Edward O. Wilson studies pine needles at Walden Pond in Massachusetts. It’s not everyday that one gets to work with such renowned legends, let alone 15 of them. “It was the most rewarding experience I’ve ever had with photography,” says Heck.
“Old Masters” was recognized in the Magazine/Editorial category in the 2015 PDN Photo Annual. The 2016 PDN Photo Annual is currently open for submissions, with an extended deadline of February 24. Please visit the website for more information.
How to Get the Best from Portrait Subjects: Photojournalist Pieter Ten Hoopen (For PDN Subscribers only; login required)