Shooting the Watchmen: Clay Enos

Shooting the Watchmen: Clay Enos

Watchmen Portraits, from Titan Books, in bookstores now

Most of you have seen a few advertisements and magazine covers touting the Watchmen film, right? Well all of those photos, which have appeared just about everywhere – on magazines such as Entertainment Weekly, Set, Empire, on all the film’s posters, alongside this article – were taken on set by one guy.

He’s a photographer named Clay Enos, and IMDB lists him as the Set Photographer for the film. So not only did he watch the film being made, but he’s shaping how the world perceives Watchmen as we build up to its release (in theatre and IMAX, I’m supposed to remind you) on March 6, 2009.

In addition to his work on the film, Enos’s photographs have now appeared in three books – all published by Titan Books with the assistance and gratitude of DC Comics: Watchmen Portraits, an over-size coffee table book showcasing Enos’s portraits of the entire cast of the movie, Watchmen: The Film Companion; and Watchmen: The Art of the Film.

We talked to Enos about his experience with the movie, the book and his excitement about the book projects that he’s found in the aftermath of being associated with the most anticipated movie of the year.

Silk Spectre

“I was asked by Director Zack Snyder and his wife to be part of the production,” said Clay Enos, of how he was hired as the Set Photographer on Watchmen. “I had expressed interest in being a set photographer for them in the past, but timing and other considerations prevented that from happening. I'm so fortunate that Watchmen was my first foray into unit photography. What an amazing project to have as a debut.”

Although his work has appeared in dozens of magazines, Enos admits that he was very excited to get a book deal with Titan Books. “The idea for a book emerged about halfway through production. My collection of portraits was growing, and the folks on set and associated with the film were increasingly aware and impressed by what I was doing in the wings,” he explained. “Since every photographer's dream is to be published in a coffee table book, I floated the idea to the filmmakers. They then took the idea to DC Comics, and somewhere along the line, Titan was tapped to publish it. I couldn't be more thrilled. The idea that an art book of portraits being out there complimenting a film is so unusual, yet when you consider that that film is Watchmen, it seems almost fitting.”

“I love making portraits. It's something I do almost wherever I go,” Enos said of his working method. “Taking that passion to the set of Watchmen was never not an option and since Zack encourages everyone on set to bring their A-game, it made perfect sense that I'd make portraits.

Nite Owl

“Look, I was the only person on set every day not making the movie. Sure I made lots of pictures seen in the movie, but in general, a unit photographer is there as the eyes of the publicity department. I needed an artistic outlet, and portraits were that outlet.”

Comparing the daily grind of being on the film set to previous photo assignments, Enos said, “Surprisingly, it was more taxing than most. Not because of the pace but because of the screwed up hours and the all-consuming nature of filmmaking. Turn-around rules make it feel like you're in a permanent state of jet lag.” He added, “Of course, I'm cool with flying somewhere far-off to make pictures, but feeling like I'm flying somewhere every day for 106 days has a way of catching up with a guy. When you take that idea, combine it with the lovely winter weather of Vancouver and a 45-minute commute each way and every freelance New Yorker bone in my body was tested. Thank god for the portraits. They were my saving grace. As exciting as it was to see the film unfold, the artist in me needed something grounding. Making portraits was it.”

“The first time I heard of Watchmen was in the Snyder house as casting was just getting started,” Enos admitted, but it took very little exposure to stir his passion for the material. “I read the novel on the flight to Vancouver but I knew from talking to the Zack and everyone involved it was going to be a photographer's dream. Months before my official gig started I was in Los Angeles and visited the Art Dept on the WB lot to see what was happening. That was when I knew I could be in for a treat. Seeing the little foam-core model of porno street, seeing renderings of the prison set and the owl chamber set my imagination alight. I probably shot 500 pictures that day alone and I wasn't even sure if I'd have the job or not.”

The Comedian

Enos saw every day of principle photography during filming. When it came time to view the film for himself, divorcing himself from the experience turned out to be easier than he expected: “I saw the film a few weeks ago and I think I was expecting to be detached. I thought I'd sit in the theatre and simply remember where I was standing during each take. Instead, I was blown away by the power the film, its mesmerizing beauty and the remarkable nuance and layers of the photography and art direction just took me away. When it was over, I didn't want to talk to anyone for a good long while. It's really something to behold.

“Kubrick had his Clockwork Orange, Snyder's got his Watchmen. March 6th is going to be one heck of day in theaters (and IMAX),” he gushed.

In addition to Watchmen Portraits, Enos’s images have been used for two other film tie-ins from Titan, Watchmen: The Film Companion and Watchmen: The Art of the Film. “I had no idea. I knew I was working on something special but I had no idea it would be this complete and all encompassing,” Enos said of the opportunities that working on Watchmen has opened to him. “I'm giving a talk at the Apple Store in Soho on March 20th! The Museum of Comic and Cartoon Art is doing a show with my stuff this spring and summer! How many unit photographers get to that kind of attention right out of the gate? What other property other than Watchmen would have such allure? I don't know but I'm doing my best to honor it all.

Sally Jupiter

“I always approach my photography the same way. When I have a camera in my hand, I move with more intention. I may always be attentive, but once tasked with making pictures that attention morphs into more of an adventuresome spirit,” he explained. “I explore with my lens and I hold dear the responsibility to share what comes of that exploration. When I found myself in the world of watchmen, I didn't act differently, there was simply more with which to interact.

“It’s funny, all kinds of press visited the set while we were filming and I knew my images would be the ones they'd get to use, so I took my job as a journalist (not publicist) pretty seriously. I was, essentially, the journalist who got to be on set every day, without restrictions. I had an all-access pass to Watchmen and I wasn't going to disappoint. By the looks of it, I haven't. That's really gratifying.”

Watchmen arrives in theatres and IMAX March 6 (as if you didn’t know). Watchmen Portraits, Watchmen: The Film Companion and Watchmen: The Art of the Film are currently in stores from Titan Books Clay Enos’s work can be online at ClayEnos.com.

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