Marc Hom: “You take a bit of the soul of someone every time you take a picture”

To mark his new book, Profiles, the portrait photographer talks intimacy, sweat and why trust is everything

Marc Hom has photographed some of the most famous people on earth – actors, musicians, monarchs. But the images he captures are intimate, not glamorous, their celebrity eclipsed by the intimate and honest.

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His latest book, Profiles collects images captured during the last eight years, from magazine commissions shooting Quentin Tarantino and the Danish Royal Family to more candid pictures of his friends and family. “It’s more a mix of more family pictures, different types of movement,” he says. “It’s a mental thing for yourself. It’s always nice to document different changes in your life, when you go through you evaluate and report.”

We caught up with him ahead of the launch to talk dream subjects, why he shoots digital like film and why selfies won’t put him out of work.

What do you look for in an interview subject?
If you choose to work with somebody it’s because you feel fascinated by the person. Or you want to know the person and you want to create an image that belongs to you. Because these people have been photographed a lot, so it’s about finding the way that you control the picture.

The Quentin Tarantino image is certainly not how he’s normally shot.
He was very much into the idea of being able to bring somebody else on set and I was like, “Well, why don’t we bring Kerry Washington, she was in the movie [Django Unchained]?”. And he said “No, no, I have this cool girl called [Nicole] Galicia that I want to bring in.”

It was for W magazine and we were like, let’s try to push this. And he is slightly crazy, but he will also commit to when you want to do stuff. I came up with the idea and he wanted to put his throw on it and he just went full on. That kind of commitment happens very rarely. It’s one of those quiet moments where he’s waiting, kind of sweating. It makes you have a bit of radiance. Can I look at it or turn away?

Do you tend to listen to what the subject wants to do or is it normally you saying “Right, I’ve got this idea, let’s put you in that”?
It’s all about trust in the end. Do you trust the people that photograph you or do you not trust them? If you trust them, you can do anything. If you don’t you can just go home. It’s really hard to do something with somebody who doesn’t want to get photographed. But it’s very much about breaking down a barrier, even if we don’t know each other.

It’s such an intimate thing a portrait, that it could be must be frightening for some people to give that trust.
Exactly. It may be a little bit less than it used to be as we are always being bombarded with pictures all of the time. But it still is really nice, even in a moment when somebody is changing lenses, and you are basically taking a bit of the soul of that person every time you take a picture of them.

Photography is so much more accessible these days. What do you think the impact of that is?
People can do a pretty good photo on their phone these days, quality is quite great and to them it creates more pressure on trying to have fun with it. I think that’s good. I still treat it as if I’m shooting film. I take very little, so I’m like, let’s do a portrait, there’s eight rolls for that.

You don’t just fire off a lot of shots and hope something turns up in the edits.
No, of course not. It’s disrespectful to the medium of photography, because you abuse it like that. But I also like it for the concentration and the focusing on building one frame that I like. I never crop, or change a head or a hand or any of that stuff. I always take the picture in the moment.

Is there anyone you haven't shot that you wish you had?
I would love to photograph Obama and put out a photograph book myself. What’s happening in the world right now is so scary. We are coming close to what our parents went through in the ‘60s or after the Vietnam war, there’s so much change now that creates an energy. What will it end up creating? There are so many people out there doing so many things without any talent and they all want to be famous for something. You know, people going back and looking at selfies, saying what am I doing here? In the world today, I think people want to be able to look back and see something authentic.