On the Road… with Jennifer Hudson

The 2022 Pirelli Calendar aims to capture the atmosphere for a performer of being on tour – and for R&B superstar Jennifer Hudson, the shoot brought back some personal memories

When actress and singer Jennifer Hudson arrived at the historic Palace Theatre in downtown Los Angeles for her photo shoot with Bryan Adams, she had a startling revelation. “This was amazing because when I got here I realised I filmed Dreamgirls here,” said the singer and actress. Dreamgirls is the 2006 musical that won Hudson a best supporting actress Oscar for her portrayal of Effie White in her film debut, in which she starred alongside Beyoncé, Jamie Foxx and Eddie Murphy.

For Hudson’s On the Road themed shots, Adams photographed the R&B superstar as if she were arriving for a concert – drawing up at the theatre’s stage door and stepping out of a car alone, in a dressing room surrounded by flowers, and then on stage, peering through the curtains into the auditorium, rehearsing. “I wanted to get a sense of her arrival in a car, by herself, and then going into this venue so it goes from the loneliness of travelling alone to suddenly being in a rehearsal situation,” said Adams of the portraits.

Hudson, who first became known as a finalist on American Idol, released her self-titled debut album in 2008 to huge acclaim, winning a Grammy award for Best R&B Album. She has continued to enjoy success on screen and stage, winning a second Grammy for Best Musical Theatre Album for 2016’s The Color Purple. She talked about the “superpower” of performing live, working with Bryan Adams, and why her favourite seat on the tour bus is up front with the driver.

What does performing for your fans mean to you?
Performing for my fans means everything to me because it’s the perfect way to communicate. As a performer it’s about energy, so if I can set my energy right then I can change the atmosphere that I am in and to me that is the power, the superpower of a performer.

Do you have a routine for writing, being creative on the road?
Living. That is my routine, and expressing myself. Like I can’t write a song unless it’s something… I’m living or something I want to say, so that’s what I mean by living, when you’re living, then you can speak from experiences and from that, comes a song.

What does it mean to you to be part of the 2022 Pirelli Calendar?
To be a part of this Calendar, one, is a dream. To work with Bryan Adams is another dream; I want to work with him musically, too. It’s such an honour to just be a part of it because, to me, it’s like a different form of creativity. It’s another artist’s perspective… so I love the expression of photography.

What was the experience like of being photographed by Bryan Adams?
To work with Bryan, I was like, I didn’t even realise you were a photographer, I know you as a musician. He said, how would you know that? So now I’m a fan in more ways than one. He’s amazing. And quick!

What’s your favourite memory of being on the road?
This is weird but my favourite memory – I love road trips, first of all – but sitting on the tour bus in the front seat with the bus driver travelling through, I guess, time and each city, state, and meeting different people from all over.

Your life is divided between set and stage… it really is a life “on the road”. What does movement mean to you?
Well, I like to progress, to have progression, so being able to leave an imprint everywhere and to know I have another destination to get to. It expands your artistry, in a way, when you can meet different people, when you can have movement, and go to different places. It expands you to be more evolved as an artist, it develops it, it’s a part of it.

What are you looking for in a photo, what strikes you the most?
What I look for in a photo is to feel like I am in that world, that I am experiencing whatever I’m looking at. If it’s a person in the photo I should feel like I’m in the room with that person, and I feel like that’s the power in that. What did my mother used to say? Candid moments, things that are real and just present in the moment versus something that’s posed and predetermined. I think it speaks more volumes when it’s a candid moment that’s causal and you’re simply being who you are. You should be able to get to know that person through their photo, or that space, as if you’ve been there.