I've written before about revisiting the images from a photoshoot and finding things I hadn't seen before but sometimes it happens when I revisit a single image that I thought was "done" but that keeps nagging at me. It happened with this shot. The original crop is at the bottom but I came back to it a couple of days ago thinking maybe the crop was a little off. One nice feature in Lightroom is that it preserves the original file so when you adjust the crop it shows you the entire image again with the cropped area overlaid. As I worked on what I believed would be a minor adjustment, I saw the arch in Blueriverdream's neck and angle of her chin, and the emotion it lent the image. The image took on a different mood and the focus shifted, for me at least, from the curve of the hair echoed in the the edges of the body and the breast to the more sensual tilt of her head with the hair now framing the image. Currently, I'm liking the newer image (at the top) more. But which one works better, do you think?
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.
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?
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.
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.
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 www.phmag.ca 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 . . .
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.
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 . . .
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!
Several of the photographers at the Torpedo Factory Art Center organized a juried show to coincide with DC Fotoweek -- a week long celebration of photography here in DC. All of the photographers who are members of the Torpedo Factory -- of which I am one -- were invited to submit images for the show. The juror was Brooks Jensen -- a photographer and editor of the journal Lenswork - an influential and widely read photography journal. Apparently this is the first show Brooks has ever juried which seems surprising given his stature in the field. I found out this week that this image -- Cocoon Series #38 -- was selected by Brooks for the show. It was wonderful news not only because of being selected by someone whose opinions on photography I respect but also because I will be in the company of my buddies and great photographers at the Torpedo Factory. The show runs from October 23 through November 25th and is hosted by Multiple Exposures Gallery on the third floor of the Torpedo Factory, itself a great place to see wonderful images produced by the 15 photographers who are members of Multiple Exposures. The opening reception is from 2pm - 4pm on Sunday, November 11th. Brooks has chosen a Best in Show and three Honorable Mentions that will be announced at the opening. I'd love to see friends there.
The masked nude . . .
What better way to pass a rainy afternoon than looking back over past work. I've written before about visiting past work and how an initial sense of the shoot seems to get forged at the time and is hard to break out of. Going back to the images months, even years, later reveals what was missed as I am freed from that initial sense. And so I found this image of Rhus. We had been playing with the black fabric when she spontaneously wrapped it around her face. I am fascinated by the masked figure. This quiet image suggests mystery along with strong design. We can see something of her face through the fabric and so she remains a person but a person we must partly create. The mystery draws us in. I also was taken by the lines of the image, the sinuous line from forehead to chest to navel to leg contrasts with the strong V of her arms and the wonderfully expressive hands. Rhus is terrific at such poses. There is strength in her pose, poise, assurance. She is there, not shying away. Not a bad find on a rainy afternoon . . .
from July 2012 . . .
Vogue has a website on which they curate galleries. That is, you
submit images to the editorial staff and they select which ones -- if
any -- to publish on the site. They certainly don't just approve
everything . . . I've had lots of images rejected . . . but one of the
newer Cocoons made it today and I thought I would share it. The model
is the wonderful Elizabeth. It really is a kick to see your image with
the VOGUE trademark in the corner . . .
from June, 2012 . . .
Had a chance to shoot outdoors this weekend thanks to a good friend with access to a farm in Virginia horse country. It is such a pleasure to shoot with great colleagues and talented models on private land where we are free to do as we please. This is my current favorite image from the day . . . I like the contrast of the foliage and Tendu's skin and lines as well as the slightly mysterious feel to the image . . . .
from May, 2012 . . .
I tend to shy away from the approach to the nude that takes the body as form without any reference to the person. Weston's work originally inspired me but I found myself less moved by the purely abstract forms he created than by the images of Tina Modotti and Charis Wilson in which the person of the model played a part. I often leave a hint of the model's face in images that other photographers might crop around. So as I was going through the shots from my recent work with Elizabeth, I began to think about what constitutes or represents the person of the model. The face, of course. But this image, among others, made me think about hands . . . how expressive and personal they can be. But do they carry enough of who the model is to bring at least a bit of the person into the frame? Is this image simply abstract and impersonal? Or do we know a bit of the woman, too?
I've usually liked softer light for figure work but while shooting with the wonderful Miss Elizabeth a few weeks ago, we played with a more directional and contrasty look. I think I like the strength this light shows, the strength of the body and the strength of the lines. It's a strong graphic image filled with some mystery given that her face is in the shadows. It doesn't hurt to have a model as talented as Elizabeth, either . . .
I'm taking a short course through Photoworks in Glen Echo, MD entitled "Contemporary Ideas in Photography." During one of the presentations, I got intrigued with the idea of grids -- related photos arranged in a matrix. Another comment the instructor (Mark Power -- formerly at the Corcoran School) made was something to the effect of leaving some work for the viewer to do in an image . . . don't give away everything. Of course, I headed straight off to play with these ideas and here is one result. I am becoming more and more interested in images in series, images that take something from their context as part of a larger whole. I returned to an old shoot with the wonderful Katileania for these images. Let me know what you think . . .
I’m reposting (and sometimes reworking) some previous posts from a page I maintained on Facebook.
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.