Trust and Experience Are Key Elements in Photographer and Director Doug Menuez's Toolkit
As a photographer and director, Doug Menuez has made it his mission to study human behavior and culture, their interdependence upon one another, documenting people and society. Clients seek imagery that is culturally relevant, making Doug a natural choice.
His series of portraits for leading women’s mentor and founder of The Going Beyond Movement,Randi Zinn is an example of putting that theory into action. Drawing from memories of his feminist mother, Doug felt a kinship to Randi, a women’s empowerment movement leader. He knew he needed to deliver portraits that would up Randi’s game and do his mom justice.
What did you learn while working on this project?
Randi came to the shoot with fashion-forward outfits, wanting a combination of lifestyle and fashion portraits. In the ’90s, I shot a lot of fashion, from catalog to couture. Seeing her walk into the room reminded me of my past at fashion shoots, the elegance, of finding beauty in the everyday. As an observer of human behavior and culture, I recognize that fashion can be profoundly important in presenting who you want people to think you are to the world.
I was interested in photographing a woman in a contemporary setting, revealing her power, and presenting her in a way that would appeal to her followers. Shooting Randi Zinn’s portraits with a fashion slant was the opportunity to do so, especially after I observed her attitude and the looks she chose. I decided to keep it to completely natural light to create fresh and clean imagery.
You can use your experience to reinvent. You take what you know, and look through how the culture has changed, turn the dial, and make it new for today.
What was a memorable moment?
Having shot many celebrities over my career, from Charlize Theron, to Liz Taylor, to Robert Redford, you never know how people will be when you photograph them. The expectation was a combination of documentary moments and portraits with various looks. But a shoot like this will only work if Randi trusts me, opens up, and relaxes. She is an incredibly open and intelligent person. I treated the shoot as an open conversation; there was back and forth. Me shooting, her revealing what she wanted, and there was vulnerability. I feel like I made some of the best portraits of the year with her.
What would you like people to take away about you and your work after seeing this?
My favorite thing to do is bring my documentary approach and story-telling with me on a shoot. This experience gives me a toolkit from which to work. However, my life has always been about having humility too. I try to have the Beginners Mind, assuming I know nothing, listening and asking questions on shoots. I hope people will learn that I can be an ally. My experience can help meet today’s audience where they live. I hope this work shows that it is a well-placed trust.