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Behind The Lens: What It's Like to Photograph The Sexiest Woman Alive

Francisco Guerrero on shooting some of the country’s most beautiful women
IMAGE Francisco Guerrero
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Over the past few days, we’ve revealed the cover of our August 2017 issue, as well as a few of the images that you can expect to see inside.

The cover story is a celebration of Filipina beauty, which we wanted to depict through the portraits of five iconic Filipinas. To do that, we enlisted Francisco Guerrero—one of the best photographers that we’ve had the pleasure of working with. Guerrero shot last year’s Sexiest Woman Alive, too: Pia Wurtzbach, for our August 2016 issue. Among the other subjects that he has shot for us are Vice President Leni Robredo, Maine Mendoza, Cherie Gil, the cast of On The Job, and former President Benigno Aquino III. This month, he adds five new subjects to that list: Anne Curtis-Smith, Angel Aquino, Agot Isidro, Tweetie de Leon-Gonzalez, and Zsa Zsa Padilla.

We spoke to Guerrero after our shoot to get his insights on what it was like to get behind the lens for all these beautiful women. Here’s what he had to say:

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ESQ: What was the most challenging part of the cover shoot?
FG: Making sure that we captured what makes each of the five women unique and beautiful. It was an amazing experience to be able to photograph these women for the Esquire portfolio. We wanted to make sure that even if we were using the same set and lighting for all of them, we would be able to draw out their character in each portrait. Each of them brought their own energy to the set, so I didn’t want to interfere with that too much—I wanted to draw it out. Like with all portraits, this was a collaboration between the editorial team, the photographer and the models. With portraits, I don’t want my techniques and vision to overpower the person I am photographing—I want the person to come through first.

ESQ: And what would you say was the best part?
FG: The best part was getting to work with such talented women! They have all spent a lot of time in front of the camera, so they know how to work with a photographer and a team to give life to the vision of the shoot.

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ESQ: Can you tell us what was going on in your head throughout the shoot?
FG: A lot! Every time Esquire has called me in to do a cover shoot, it’s always about creating a concept, and that’s a collaborative process. My job as the photographer is to make these concepts intersect into an image. Of course, I have a lot of technical things I have to assess: lighting, background, composition, lens choice, the clothes, the poses. But once that is all in place, I always ask myself, “What is this image trying to say?” And if I don’t have an answer, then I’m doing something wrong, so we go back to the drawing board. Personally, I don’t like looking at the images too much during a shoot. I pop off a few frames to make sure composition and lighting are okay, then I focus on the model as much as I can. I prefer to let the art director and styling team check the monitors. If you spend too much time looking at your laptop, that means you are not engaging with your subject, and that’s key—engaging on some level, making your subject feel that they are the most important person on the planet at that moment.

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"They are comfortable in their own skin, and they exude confidence—that makes for great pictures."

ESQ: You mentioned that each of our subjects had their own unique energy. Can you run through what you felt from each of the five?
FG: Yes, just like anyone, each of them had a very specific energy and we wanted to work with that rather than have them conform to a look or a pose.
Zsa Zsa—she was the first of our subjects to arrive on set. She may not know it, but it was her shoot that set the tone for the rest. She has a fantastic depth to her gaze, which adds power to the quieter portraits.
Angel—she was able to bring to set an amazing array of emotions, which I am sure comes from her acting background. She even danced for the camera!
Tweetie—power and athleticism. That’s all I have to say: She has a power and grace with the way she moves.
Agot—sensual would be the best way I could describe her.
Anne—She is probably one of the most photographed women in the country right now. That always brings a certain pressure to create original images. She was great to work with and I think the final cover image reveals a certain innocence and simplicity that you don’t always get to see.

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ESQ: Did you learn from or about any of our subjects while shooting them?
FG: I learned that the Filipina is the most beautiful woman in the world. (I married one!)

ESQ: What’s the sexiest thing about our cover subjects?
FG: They are comfortable in their own skin, and they exude confidence—that makes for great pictures. It has very little to do with physical beauty. Don’t get me wrong; they’re all beautiful, but that confidence always adds a spark.

ESQ: You’ve taken a lot of photos for Esquire, and we think your work has been a huge part of defining our perspective on women. What would you say is unique about that perspective?
FG: It has been an honour and privilege. I love the fact that every time Esquire photographs a woman, it’s on her terms. Esquire lets them be themselves in the images, rather than making them conform to stereotypes of female beauty.

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