16th May, 2006
Camera: Canon EOS-1Ds Mark II
Lens: 35 mm
Date: 16th May, 2006
Shutter speed: 1/50 sec
ISO speed: 800
Focal length: 35mm
Flash: Did not fire
This was taken in, I’m guessing, 2006 or 2007 at The Peninsula Hotel in Hong Kong. It was a publicity shot for Universal Pictures’, Miami Vice.
The Peninsula has a fleet of Rolls-Royces, and we rented one to take Gong Li to locations. It’s a funny thing when you have this actress who’s well-respected in the West but in the East is an enormous star. We had paparazzi following us in cars and we had to use the back entrance to the hotel, with secure doors that would shut behind us, so the press could be held back.
She’s so much more famous in China than in the UK. At one point I took her out on the street and did some pictures. In under a minute we learnt this was never gonna work. We had to get her in a car and get away.
She has one of the most emotive faces I’ve ever seen. You could just call emotions out to her and her expression would change. You couldn’t see her face move it was all in her eyes. She could go from longing, to despair, to joy, to being turned on, to being in love, with the flick of a switch.
The light above her head in the car is hitting her hair, and the rest of the image I lit with little, brick-shaped, handheld Litepanels. Steve Jackson, my assistant, is in the passenger seat next to Gong Li, I’m in the front seat next to the driver shooting back into her. I’ve shot a lot of women in the back of cars, I’m not entirely sure why that is. Probably some demented thing from my youth. The light coming in across the right side of her face is the neon in the street outside. The rain is real, not staged. It’s very much a reportage picture.
The thing that I try to get in all my images is a sense that you are looking at a performer in a role. You should feel there’s some danger outside of the car. I wanted it to be not so much a portrait, more a cinematic image of a character.
—Greg Williams (with Samuel Agboola)
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