Natalie Portman

Inspiration, the fifth and last film in the Auerbach series, recalls a demanding 2013 commercial photoshoot for Dior with Natalie Portman.

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It was the busiest set-up in this series, with a correspondingly large team on the client’s and the model’s side. In this far from intimate and tightly managed setting, the assignment was to manifest spontaneity. Alas, the catch with inspiration is it can be practiced, but not faked.

Auerbach describes directing Portman, facilitating her work through affordances and changes in position, letting her ease into the role required of her by Dior: a perfect balance of control and incandescence, novelty and prestige. No mean feat, as Portman’s fame and beauty complicate this equilibrium: her luxury must not outshine that of the brand she’s representing.

The master photo in this series is remarkable for its overt inclusion of the elements of process. It could be revealing to a fault were the photographer less skilled or the model any less self-possessed or enigmatic.

As it stands, the master is almost a film. In a single saccade, it migrates from the darkened studio to the daylit window, from the workshop to the composition. Portman tilts balletically into the fenestration, casting an expert glance over her shoulder as she, knowingly, introduces a diagonal into the mise en scène that’s further heightened by the volume and cut of her skirt.

Portman is not an ingenue; she never has been. She is the opposite of one, in fact—a cosmopolitan—and Auerbach frames this in a commercial portrait that is also ravishingly psychological.

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Posts in this series

Announcing Captured Moment: The Master’s Process

Authenticity: Zendaya

Adaptation: Benedict Cumberbatch

Efficiency: Mike Tyson

Timelessness: Sharon Stone