Skilled as a conceptual, celebrity, and portrait photographer, Jim Fiscus brings the highest level of visual expertise to his work. Jim’s series of key art for Showtime‘s new horror-thriller period drama, Penny Dreadful, can be seen prominently displayed throughout NYC’s Grand Central Station through June 18th. We caught up with the AtEdge photographer recently to find out more about the project, his work style, capturing celebrities, and Victorian technology.
Tell us about Penny Dreadful! The production design looks exceptionally rich.
The project was shot at the Ardmore Studios in Dublin. The show’s creator, Oscar-nominated screenwriter John Logan had taken over the entire complex and filled the stages with the most elaborate and convincing sets I’ve ever worked on. He is a very focused person and his attention to detail is amazing. To execute his ideas, he chose an incredibly strong group of people, including Gabriella Pescucci for costume design and Jonathan McKinstry for production design, both of whom I’d previously worked with on the Borgias campaigns. So the sets were exceptionally rich due to their genius. I’m at a point in my career where I am fortunate to work with such professionals at the very highest level. I feel like my photographs benefit most from this collaboration, and I’m learning more than I ever have before.
How do you distill the essence of a moving image format like television into still photographs?
I read the scripts, watch the shows, and then write ten words onto a blank sheet of paper. From there, my goal is to make a photograph that illustrates those words. This allows it to become a conceptual image rather than a literal photograph of people. Once those clues have been established, I make visual triangles to draw the observer’s eyes around the frame.
How does it feel to see your work so prominently displayed in public spaces such as Grand Central Terminal?
We shot this campaign in December, and have been working on the images ever since. After becoming so familiar with them, I was actually surprised by how much they moved me. Showtime’s placement is powerful — the images are dark and silent and luminous. They show particularly well in that chaotic environment. I was with my family and a close friend when I visited Grand Central; it touched me to see how proud they were.
Are you familiar with the source material for this series? Do you have any favorite classic horror stories?
I read Frankenstein and Dracula years ago, though my weakness is sci-fi and fantasy. In my research for Penny Dreadful, I have become aware of the parallels that can be drawn between horror and sci-fi genres in that the stories are often a metaphor for society’s fears and the human nature we battle.
Photography was the new media technology during the era Penny Dreadful takes place. Did you try to incorporate the aesthetics from this time in your shoot? If photographic methods had remained the same from the Victorian Era, do you think you would still be a photographer by trade?