Cocoons and Mud

Cocoon Series #84

I had a chance to shoot again with Blueriverdream . . . the model I wrote about in my post on first sessions.  We decided to play with the cocoon and some body paint and cosmetic mud to see what adding texture and deeper tones might do to the Cocoon Series.  Blueriverdream was a real trooper and I ended up liking the added texture and the way the mud followed the contours of the stretched fabric.  Simply adding another element  added another dimension to the series.

I was thinking about work in a series after our session in the studio.  Some series are broadly thematic, with disparate parts held together around the broad theme.  It's a bit like a larger jazz ensemble where the various instruments play around and with each other, weaving a whole that can feel multi-layered and complex.  Series like the Cocoon Series, however, are more like a jazz trio or quartet, the endless ways in which a limited group of elements can come together -- in this case, light, the nude figure, and the nylon cocoon -- occasionally adding a new element to enrich the mix.  I like both approaches and am trying to figure out which approach to take in my next longer-term project.


Cocoon Series #036-Edit.jpg

I got some very good news this week. . . a portfolio of my Cocoon Series images will appear in the next issue of Lenswork magazine. I am so happy about this since I have long admired Lenswork both for the care and quality of its physical presentation and for the quality of the work they publish. Some of my personal photography heroes have appeared in Lenswork and it is both gratifying and a little intimidating for me to be among them.  My work will appear in both the print and digital issues and apparently there will even be a recorded interview available in the digital edition. Thanks to the many wonderful models I have worked with over the years and especially to Katlyn Lacoste, Rhus, Blueriverdream, Sasha Beth, and Miss Elizabeth who will appear in this issue. And thanks to the many friends who have supported my work . . . Not bad news for a sunny Tuesday evening in DC, huh?

Meeting a new model . . .



I truly enjoy working with the same model again and again.  It gives us a chance to develop a relationship, a sense of trust, and an understanding of the work we are doing together.  Some of the work I like the most has come from these creative relationships.  But all relationships start somewhere and in the case of figure photography, it is with the first session.  You hear lots of advice about a first shoot . . . meet beforehand to discuss what you both want from the session, cover limits and expectations, and so forth.  In my experience, most new model relationships start with an email, an agreement to work together, and a date for the shoot.  When the model arrives, I like to show her a little of my portfolio and chat for a bit, but we really get to know each other by plunging into the work. 

It is a moment of mutual vulnerability . . . While the model is more vulnerable, certainly, the photographer risks sharing his vision, a piece of his artistic soul.  "What do you want me to do?" the model asks.  And I begin to tell her.  For the relationship to really work, there has to be trust on both sides.  Trust and vulnerability.  At least, that's how it seems to me.  I'm curious to know what my model friends think

The image above is of a wonderful model I had a chance to work with for the first time several days ago . . . Blueriverdream.  She is poised and comfortable and elegant in front of the camera and she settled into this moment in a lovely and pure way.  I look forward to working with her again.

The nude in motion . . .

Ariel 20121229 -659.jpg

There is something captivating about the nude form in motion.  This image of Ariel came after we'd been shooting a series of dance images in costume.  Ariel is both a talented dancer and a fine figure model so we moved to shooting nude with a bit of fabric to accentuate the flow of motion.  I love the energy and the whimsy of Ariel's "pose" as it were since a pose connotes a static state and she was far from static.  While there is certainly a time for the pensive nude, I find myself drawn more and more to the vitality of the nude form in motion.  We live in motion and in time and I hope this image captures a bit of the joy that comes from doing so.

PH Magazine

A portfolio of my figure work is in this month's edition of PH Magazine -- a Canadian photography e-journal. I am really excited to be featured in PH Magazine and to be among the many fine photographers whose work they have published. The issue is available free as a PDF download from They operate based on donations so if you feel so moved you might shoot them a couple of bucks as well. Not a bad way to start 2013 . . .

An old favorite . . .

I had three photos accepted for a show at the Target Gallery in the Torpedo Factory Art Center in Alexandria, VA.  The theme of the show is Joys of the Season and is focused on the winter season.  One of the photos selected is an old favorite . . . Winter Bus Stop.  I shot this photo from my hotel window in the midst of a snowstorm in Stavanger, Norway when I was there on business to present at a conference.  Stavanger is on the North Sea coast and the little pond in front of the hotel must have been brackish because the water was freezing at different rates and the falling snow melted when it hit open water but not when it landed on the ice.  My eye was caught by the interesting pattern on the water and I shot several frames trying to get that pattern.  Then, as so often happens, I put down the camera and looked again and saw the people awaiting the bus.  Suddenly the image wasn't about just form and light, it was also about the place we occupy in the world.  I quickly snapped more frames and this image is the result.  It was also one of the first images I made that I was really satisfied with and that left me thinking, "Gee, maybe I can do this . . ."  So, it is fun to know that an old favorite will have a place on a gallery wall for awhile. 

McCollum #1 Winter Bus Stop.jpg

Friends and Dutch light . . .

Miss Elizabeth

Miss Elizabeth

Last week I had the chance to shoot with a terrific model and good friend -- Miss Elizabeth. We've worked together for over 7 years now . . . Elizabeth was one of the first figure models I shot back when I was new at this and she was earlier in her career as well so we've kind of grown up together artistically. I so appreciate her grace and ease in front of the camera as well as the fact that she's just fun to work with.

Last week, the setup was simple -- a medium soft-box and a big studio that let us have a dusky dark background despite the strobe. The images are a bit of a departure for me -- several in color, for one thing, and a bit more of a glam feel. I'm hoping to get a set of images that I can submit to some of the newer fashion magazines that publish the nude figure along with straight fashion. I do like the soft but directional light in these images -- maybe channeling a bit of Vermeer. See what you think . . .

Dancers and motion . . .

Dancers Edward Spots and Lindsey Miller at Lois Greenfield Workshop - NYC

Dancers Edward Spots and Lindsey Miller at Lois Greenfield Workshop - NYC

Katlyn Lacoste

Katlyn Lacoste

At the end of September, I had the chance to spend a weekend in New York at a workshop in dance photography taught by Lois Greenfield.  Lois is an amazing photographer with a wide network in the New York dance community so not only did we get a chance to learn about studio work, we also got to shoot some amazingly talented dancers.  It was truly a pleasure to work with people who not only have the athletic talent but also the creative ability to take concepts and turn them into motion and design. I asked Edward and Lindsey to simply make eye contact with one another and for Edward to jump as Lindsey raised her leg but stayed stationery.  This was the wonderful result.  Working with dancers over that weekend got me thinking about motion and the kinetic sense of the body, especially when shooting the nude.  The female nude figure -- especially in fine art -- seems to often be shot in static ways that seem to communicate either the graphic sense of the body or an emotion . . . but what about motion and energy itself?  A couple of weeks after the Greenfield workshop, I had a chance to shoot again with a friend and amazing model -- Katlyn Lacoste.  Katlyn loves motion and we shot some wonderful images of her leaping against a white wall.  Hopefully you can see the influence of the Greenfield workshop in this image.  What a wonderful sense of the energy of the body Katlyn conveys. 

And what pleasure to work with such talented people!

Urban Decay

I’m reposting (and sometimes reworking) some previous posts from a page I maintained on Facebook. 

Workhouse Boiler

Workhouse Boiler

From June 2011 . . .

You know, fellow photographers are kind of like those kids you always wanted to hang out with in high school but your parents wouldn't let you because "they aren't a good influence" . . . . our fellow shooters are always up to something fun. One of the Workhouse Photography Group was able to get us access to a long-abandoned industrial site where we shot yesterday. Climbing over fences and scrambling through briars only added to the fun. Inside, the hazy day made for wonderful, soft light coming in through broken windows and doors and the rusting equipment was alive with great textures, shadows and highlights.

Shooting here also made me wonder about our fascination with images of so-called urban decay.  What is the allure of the discarded, the broken, the abandoned?  I know I am fascinated by empty spaces . . . spaces that are empty both materially and spiritually but still hinting at the life that used to be here.  At the old power plant, it was easy to imagine the work, the camaraderie, the welcome heat on cold winter days and the sweat in the summer even with the big doors thrown open.  Perhaps it is like archeology, putting together the past from the bones of the present.