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October 05, 2017

The Breathing Room

A preview of the photo-filled emmy magazine.

  • Ann Dowd

    Robert Ascroft
  • Alexander Skarsgård

    Robert Ascroft
  • Aziz Ansari and Lena Waithe

    Robert Ascroft
  • Cast and producers of Big Little Lies

    Robert Ascroft
  • Deon Cole

    Robert Ascroft
  • Jackie Hoffman

    Robert Ascroft
  • Jared Harris

    Robert Ascroft
  • Finn Wolfhard, Caleb McLaughlin, Noah Schnapp, and Gaten Matarazzo

    Robert Ascroft
  • Cast and producers of Veep

    Robert Ascroft
  • Zazie Beetz

    Robert Ascroft


So said photographer Robert Ascroft many times on Emmy day, as winners, presenters and other A-listers posed in his backstage photo studio.

“There’s so much going on that day for the talent,” he explained when the rush was over. “But these images have longevity. I really want them to be great. So I tell them, ‘Take a breath, let it out and give me those four or five frames that will last forever.’”

While a photo session often takes hours, Robert had to capture many of his Emmy portraits in less than a minute. As winners proceed from the stage of L.A.’s Microsoft Theater, one of their first stops is the emmy studio.

More subjects are right behind, and those posing for him have many interviews and shoots ahead — and parties to get to, of course. So speed is of the essence — not just in creating the images, but in converting the set to accommodate individuals or large groups.

“Having my A-team really helped,” Robert said of his crew of five. “I’ve been working with them for years — they know exactly what I’m looking for.”

What Robert was looking for on September 17 was “intimate, beautiful portraits” that stood out among the thousands of images taken that day. “Everybody is shot many times,” he acknowledged. “I wanted a unique photo spread for the Academy.”

To that end, he designed a versatile set. On one side: a living room featuring navy walls set off by light gray molding and French doors and furnished with a stylish light-blue sofa, red chair and faux fireplace topped by “the heaviest mirror on the planet.” (Two trips to Home Depot ensured no earthquake would bring it down.)

“I was going for an upscale apartment feel,” he said. “And I love to be able to include reflection in a shot,” he added of the mirror, whose gold frame “was a nod to Emmy gold, without being over-the-top.”

On the other side of the set, a canvas backdrop of gray-blue: “Cooler tones in the background make the warmth of the skin pop.” As day turned to night, Emmy insiders poured into Robert’s studio, oohing and aahing at the set and often recognizing their photographer.

“Many of these people, I’ve photographed them over the years. It’s nice to have that reconnection.” Though Robert was shooting the emmy studio for the first time, he is widely known for his work in celebrity portraits, fashion, beauty and advertising, for print, the web, billboards and television. His client list includes ad agencies, movie studios, magazines, record companies, Broadway theaters and fashion designers.

And now the Emmys: resulting in the record-setting, 54-page photo feature in this month’s emmy magazine. Take a breath and enjoy a preview of what awaits you in this month’s issue.

For more photos, pick up this month's emmy magazine, on newsstands October 10.

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