Cosby Rape Accusers' Photographer: "There Was a Lot of Intense Bonding" on Set
Photographer Amanda Demme tells THR how she put at ease 35 "fearful" subjects she photographed for a New York magazine portfolio featuring dozens of women who've alleged that Bill Cosby raped them.
L.A.-based artist Amanda Demme faced the challenge of her career when she was called to oversee one of the year's most controversial photo shoots.
Also a prolific movie music supervisor (and widow of director Ted Demme), she says she didn't blink an eye when New York called this spring and asked her to shoot groups of women who claim they were raped and sexually abused by comedian Bill Cosby.
The photographer details here how she pulled off multiple shoots for the cover story, how she used a "fine art" approach to capture her subjects, and why she hopes the women have a larger "sense of pride" after participating.
When did your involvement in this project begin?
We got a phone call in late March, early April. We had shot a couple things for New York magazine before. The conversation started from there. At that point, I knew what the average person knew about the Cosby allegations.
Were you worried about all about taking it on?
Not at all, no.
How involved were you in the logistics of booking and wrangling the subjects?
That was all New York Magazine Photography Director Jody Quon. I never spoke to the women beforehand. In the beginning, it was far fewer women; a much smaller project. But it kept growing and growing. So we did a shoot in New York, one in Vegas and two or three in Los Angeles over the last month and a half or so.
What was your overall photo concept and inspiration?
I have a fine art series that hangs at Obsolete Gallery in Culver City. It has a very distinct color palate to it, and the magazine and I had talked about it fitting this vision as well, but making it more accessible to public than regular “fine art.” We wanted the photos to feel like more traditional “sittings” instead of portraits. The white series is very painterly; it’s very intimate. There isn’t a lot of color on purpose.
How did you put the women at ease, especially considering most were not accustomed to having their photo taken?
Some definitely weren’t at ease. I think the fact that they were shot in groups and were never alone helped. They had time to get touched up and talk to each other, so by the time they got in front of the camera, they felt safe. There was intense bonding. One by one would have been very different. Most of them had not met each other before.
What surprised you the most about this experience?
I mostly hand-pick people I shoot, so having to people come to me was very new. Shooting people without knowing them, people I had no personal attachment to, was surprising. The women were very, very open, even though some were fearful. They have so much pride and strength. I learned a lot from all of them. They all had such strong personalities!
What do you hope happens from here for them and the allegations against Cosby?
I don’t have thing to say about the allegations, but for them and all women, I hope they have a larger sense of pride. No more shame. They look so beautiful. These are photos I hope they keep and feel proud of when they see them and know they did something very important.