Photographer Chris Levine sees the power of expression more when his subjects are at rest, still and calm for the moment. His pictures seek to capture that tacit character that is so powerfully communicated thru subtlety and nuance. His subjects might be some of the most visible personalities that project strong individuality, but it is while they are at rest and put at ease that he is able to more powerfully extract their distinctive characters. Among his subjects are Jamaican singer, actress and model Grace Jones, controversial supermodel Kate Moss, and no less than Queen Elizabeth II.
“Every opportunity I got [to shoot a portrait], I tried to distill it back to just pure essence without any suggestion or iconography or anything,” he told TIME in a recent interview. “I’m experimenting with that and trying to get stillness in the image.”
For Levine, his biggest challenge is to distance himself from the image of his subject and just focus on the moment and the individual before him. During his session with Kate Moss, his strategy was to ignore Kate Moss the celebrity, and instead, focus on an ordinary woman before him. The 41-year-old British Photographer born in Canada says he never thought he would be shooting iconic figures at this stage of his career. When he received a call from Buckingham Palace in 2004 to take portraits of the Queen herself, Levine thought it was some kind of joke. “I thought it was a hoax at first! Seriously, I really did. It just seemed so far-fetched.”
Once he realized the request was the real deal, he began prepping for the session. He wanted to use his knowledge of holography and light to photograph the Queen in a very contemporary way. It took a painstaking three days to set-up the lighting for the photo shoot. The actual pictorial took an hour and a half, but the results are absolutely perfect. It was from this series that TIME chose its cover shot for the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee in 2012.
“I think [these images] struck such a chord because it’s going somewhere into a more spiritual dimension and into a deeper realm,” says Levine. ”It’s what we are but people don’t very often connect with it.”