Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock, you’d be hard pressed not to have heard of Black Panther, the latest box office phenomenon in the Marvel Comics Universe (MCU for your comic nerds). After only 2 ½ weeks since its release, the movie has surpassed both Wonder Woman and Toy Story 3 in North American box office receipts to break into the top 20 grossing movies in the U.S.
The stunning success has meant many photo ops for its stars, and the Black Panther himself, Chadwick Boseman, has graced the covers of TIME and Rolling Stone. But rather than examine the covers this week, I thought we might take a look at some of the inside photography, which often tends to be much more interesting than the more programmatic covers. Off to Wakanda we go!
Norman Jean Roy is no stranger to “Who Shot It Better” with an appearance as recently as last week with his cover of supermodel Christy Turlington. His cover for Rolling Stone was a bit of an identity mashup between Boseman the actor and T’Challa, the Black Panther. But check out this image inside the issue.
Whoa! A crown of thorns – an unsubtle, yet powerful biblical reference. You might recall that the crown of thorns was placed on Jesus’s head leading up to the crucifixion as a symbolism to mock his authority. Erik Killmonger, the film’s antagonist, held contempt for T’Challa’s authority. And one could argue that the naysayers (and white supremacists) who doubted the film’s potential were mocking its authority as well. The symbolism runs deep.
The image looks like it was shot in natural light. The depth of field is shallow, and there seems to be a little bit of motion blur on Boseman’s right shoulder. But the eye is sharp, sharp, sharp. The tonality is fantastic. Really great contrast in the skin, and the shell bracelet on his left wrist pops in the corner without being distracting.
The husband and wife team of Mark Williams and Sara Hirakawa came up with a dramatically different image of Boseman with 31-year old director Ryan Coogler. The keylight is positioned camera left as a sidelight that illuminates both subjects. The shadows are soft, so we know its a big light source. The position is fantastic, and I wouldn’t be surprised (nor disappointed) if the image was actually a composite. The sharpness of both subjects despite the obvious distance between them is what made me consider this possibility (but if I had to put money on it, I’d say it’s all in-camera). The selection of wardrobe against the background color totally work.
Verdict: This is a tough one for me. I’m really feeling the William+Hirakawa image because it could have been a very conventional portrait, but their positioning and lighting pattern turned it into something special. And I wasn’t a fan of Roy’s work last week, but I’m really digging the unexpectedness of his image this week. Why don’t we go with…