For this year’s Great Performances portfolio, TIME asked fashion photographer Paola Kudacki to take portraits of 11 actors, all of whom appeared in 2012 films that captured key moments in history, and several of whom portrayed real-life people.
“It’s always interesting to meet actors who are completely different than the characters they play,” Kudacki told TIME. A guiding philosophy in her portrait work is to show a side of each actor as he or she truly is. The goal is to find “the moment of ultimate intimacy,” she says. “It’s about making each of your subjects comfortable. You have to become their confidante, instantly, to get them to relax in front of the camera.”
While conversations between photographer and subject are important to create a rapport, Kudacki also made up fictional characters and situations for each participant to play during the shoot. “For actors, used to playing a specific role, I hoped this would help them relax,” she said. In making the roles their own, the actors might also reveal something about themselves. “Like the first time I developed my own film,” she says, “capturing these characters in camera is like turning fantasy into reality.”
Wardrobe by Heathermary Jackson.