How do you kill a zombie? If you were to break it down, shot-by-shot, what would it look like? Dylan Coulter photographed The Walking Dead’s Andrew Lincoln, Norman Reedus, Danai Gurira, Steven Yeun, and Lauren Cohan on July 13 in Atlanta for Entertainment Weekly. Using multiple-exposure, Coulter answered those questions.
He began by taking separate photographs at separate exposures. In post-production, he put them together, overlapping images very selectively. There, he toyed with transparency, lightness, and darkness, emphasizing and de-emphasizing layers at his discretion. Coulter’s photographs resulted in four separate covers for each character, with Yeun and Cohan sharing a cover. All appear as their respective characters. All exude energy.
“As a technique I think what it’s great for is really conveying movement and energy and a sense of motion in a still image,” Coulter said. “You can show something, point A to point B.”
Look to Reedus’ cover (pictured above) as an example. The cover features five images of Daryl. In the back right-hand corner, Daryl is crouching, low to the ground, preparing to leap. Here, the images are fairly transparent. The subsequent images, layered on top of each other, show Daryl leaping higher and higher into the air. The final image of Daryl in motion shows him front and center, arrows in hand, preparing to attack an unseen zombie. Here, he is not transparent at all. He is a fully realized, zombie-killing machine.
Similarly, the other covers show Rick punching into frame, scowl on his face and blood on his hand, Michonne wielding her katana, cautious stance but fierce look in her eyes, and Glenn and Maggie keeping their weapons low, perhaps a bit hesitantly, but surely not to be underestimated. Aesthetically, the covers are alike. It is their “zombie killing” approach that differs.
Taking “zombie killing” into consideration, the shoot was vigorous. And despite the fact that he’s worked with a number of world-class athletes, including Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi, Coulter says he was “really impressed” with their agility.
“This is a big part of the show but they’re all in kind of amazing condition, and have a real team sense of where their body is, just a physical sense,” he says. “That’s not something you always see with people who are not athletes.”
He adds that blaring music on set helped too. Reedus listened to Motörhead, and Yeun and Cohan listened to The Black Keys. Lincoln listened to Metallica — “really loud.”
“He was method acting. It was pretty cool. It was fun to be on set with that, to have that energy,” Coulter said. “I think his photos really reflect that. I really do. All his imagery, to me, has a real intensity to it.”
Coulter had strong points of view and ideas going into the shoot, but the actors brought a number of ideas to the table as well, making it a collaborative process. “With the multiple-exposures, you always have to be open minded to a degree because you don’t know exactly how someone is going to move or how they’re going to do it, and you always want it to be authentic.”
EW’s The Walking Dead issue is available now.