Dennis Haysbert

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Portrait of actor Dennis Haysbert.  Photo by John Keatley.

It has always been a dream of mine to photograph the President of The United States, and now I can cross that off my list of things to do.  David Palmer is the first African American president in US history.  Well, in TV history I should say.  Dennis Haysbert played President David Palmer on Fox’s 24, and he talked about playing the president at our shoot, “A lot of people considered me to be the first black president – which is ridiculous, but that’s the power of TV.”

Speaking of the influence of TV.  I am seriously considering switching my auto insurance to Allstate.

I photographed Dennis while he was in Seattle working on an upcoming movie called “The Details“.  Toby Maguire, Elizabeth Banks, and Laura Linney are also in the film.  It is being labeled as a dark comedy, and there are rumors that the plot revolves around a married couple dealing with a raccoon problem.  That might just be a rumor though.  Dennis said that you could get 30 different answers as to what the film is about depending on who you ask.  We will see…  (Here) is an interesting story about the home the movie is being filmed in.  Sounds like the project hit some rough spots, but they are back on track now.

Conan recently ran a pretty funny sketch on The Tonight Show called Twitter Tracker.  The sketch quoted several celebrity tweets in an attempt to convince viewers of the value of Twitter.  The grand finale was a tweet by Dennis Haysbert.  “Just saw the new Star Trek movie. Wow, really good.”  I was hoping to go to his Twitter page after our shoot and read about how he just worked with the most amazing photographer.  It turns out the whole skit was made up, and Dennis doesn’t even use Twitter.  Can you believe that?  Conan, making stuff up?


Your photos never cease to wow me John. You're lighting is sensitive and unique. So many photographers these days seem to be obsessed with stylized lighting that natural lighting is becoming an endangered species. It's a shame because it looks so damn good.

POSTED BY Alex D. on 8-30-2009

Good photo. However, I was surprised not to see catch light in eyes. I only mention this because last night when I was shooting photos I forgot to add the bounce card to create catch lights. My bad. Am curious about whether this is intentional.

POSTED BY Stephen Woo on 8-31-2009

Hi Stephen, Interesting comment. I am curious why you think it is bad you left out a bounce card. If your personal style requires you to always use a bounce card to create catch lights in your subjects eyes, then I guess you made a mistake. For me personally, I don't worry about catch lights or always using a specific light. I set up lights based on the feel I want to create. If I set up lights, and I don't like how they feel, then I am going to change anything necessary to achieve the look I want. I would encourage you to be free with your lighting and experiment. There are rules in photography, but rules are also meant to be broken.

POSTED BY John Keatley on 8-31-2009

Wah! Some perfect portrait you got in here. His eyes are so damn deep! And to the twitter and TV influence, I guess many people have searched twitter for him after the sketch just to find out it was made up. It could probably been no 1 search phrase that night ;)

POSTED BY Marcin Retecki on 8-31-2009

Awesome stuff John. Really like the shadow detail.

POSTED BY Dan Depew on 9-1-2009

nicely done. Just enough light, not to much and the perfect close crop.

POSTED BY TUffer on 9-29-2009

Hi John Perusing your blog and reading the stories, is how I arrived at this particular post. I found the lighting to be interesting and a nice effect for portraiture. While I normally do not write anyone to ask "how did you do it"... I wondered if it were two heads with grids on either side behind the subject, and one head with a grid overhead... am I far off? less complicated? Do tell, if you have the time.

POSTED BY AGDM on 9-23-2010

I just discovered your photography through SK's blog. It is very entertaining. I adore this picture of DH well, I like him and this headshot does him great justice. I totally agree with your response about lighting. An image should be lit according to how the space and subject feel you will draw much more personality and warmth. Great work!

POSTED BY Tee on 12-22-2011

I have seen Stephen Woo's work. I have long been an admirer and fan of John's amazing work. Not to be ornery but it just made me laugh that Woo would lecture Keatley on light. It's like Pee Wee Herman trying to straighten out Tiger Woods golf game. Thanks John. You're one of my heros in this great gig called photography.

POSTED BY Thomas Simpson on 3-24-2012

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