Joe Pugliese Wins Bigly for The Hollywood Reporter, and We're Not Tired of It Yet
He might not like us telling you this, but Joe Pugliese is a total nerd when it comes to Saturday Night Live. He loves the show and has for decades, so whenever he gets the opportunity to photograph the cast, producers, writers, it’s always something that he leaps at. This week SNL will close out the current season, but it will go down as one of the most consequential in the show’s history because of the incredible work the cast has done lampooning the Trump administration. Mocking the President isn’t new for the show, but this season has gone in a slightly different direction. “SNL has always poked mild fun at Presidents and this is another level, this is almost like activism in a way,” says Joe.
The Hollywood Reporter invited Joe to photograph this SNL Trump Administration, creating something of a historical document to remember the work these actors and writers have done. “I don’t generally like to inject humor into my photos, that’s sort of a little bit out of character,” Joe explains. “But given the opportunity I felt like it was important to document this cast of characters doing what they do the same way I would have wanted to with Monty Python troupe doing what they do, just to get it down as a record.” Joe met the cast at New York City’s The Rainbow Room and brought with him paparazzi photographs from the Studio 54 era to show the actors. He wanted to replicate that feeling with the cast, let them imagine that the Administration is the coolest kids on the block, living it up in one fantastic night. Communicating with the actors in that way was the key to making this shoot work as well as it did.
Since Joe gave the actors their ‘scene,’ as it were, these incredible improvisers just let go and played. By offering them the freedom to jump into character, Joe’s job became smoother. “If I had to photograph Alec Baldwin as Alec Baldwin, New York actor, comic actor, that would have been really hard if he weren’t in character,” says Joe. “As soon as he put on that wig it’s easy, he didn’t even need to think about it. None of them did. They all did their characters and had a lot of fun with it.” Instead of coaxing these moments out of each of the actors, Joe got to sit back and play audience for these experts. And they delivered.
Joe sees his job as a photographer to be witness in rooms and situations that the rest of us can’t be in. He’s our emissary. He reports back to us not in words and quotes, but in moments frozen in photographs, evoking the emotions that he experiences while he lives them. It may seem like a catalogue of photographs of actors in character is contrary to that goal, but Joe explains that in this particular instance it’s actually exactly that. “We’ll look back on this in ten years and say that was a moment where politics and entertainment really collided,” says Joe. “With Trump’s victory a lot of people have become activists whether they’d like it or not. I feel like with the way people communicate now, everyone has a channel or an outlet, a voice, they have their own headlines to write in social media, and there’s a general low level feeling of activism across the board whereas it used to be just the really passionate people be the activists.” Elections are an amazing reminder that democracy is a process and everyone’s voice counts. SNL’s work this season is an extension of that, of the burden of citizenry. Even if it comes with a laugh.