|6x4.5 cm film|
In February, 1989, I had my first opportunity to work with a nude couple. P_ and Denise were friends, and Denise was having me do some portfolio photos for her. Towards the end of the session, P_ asked Denise if she'd pose nude with him. The result was really strong - just over three rolls of 120 film (15 images a roll) depicting a intimacy and tenderness that is incredibly apparent. I had never thought of photographing couples before, and this opened my eyes to a whole world of possibilities.
In the first term of 1989, I was enrolled in "The View Camera", a course dealing with large format photography. I was at somewhat of an advantage, as I had been using the studio view-camera for eighteen months when the class started, and was already familiar with many of the basic procedures for using the cameras. As I have a strong aversion to freezing to death, I spent most of my term using the studio, and eventually based my final project on studio portraits, printed to 16"x20" on fibre paper. What I learned in the View Camera was crucial to where I'd be in two years, but at the time, when the course was over, I was glad to get back to using 35mm cameras, and blasting my way through rolls of film.
As was usually the case for me, while I was working on my class project, I was also working on my own work. A good friend, T_, asked me to assist her with some of the images for her project - one was her as Ophelia in the water after drowning. We built a small water-bath in the studio and did her images. After, I loaded up my own film and did some macro images of T_ lying in the water, her skin and the water-droplets upon it. The images are really quite successful, apart from the obvious constructed nature of them. Later, I'd return to close-ups of the Nude, but it would be seven years before I returned to water and the Nude.
One of the cool things about being able to process and develop your own film is that seemingly mundane things can become the subject of your images, without a great expense (i.e. if the photos don't turn out, you don't have to answer to your banker). The image above is an example of this - my parents had hired divers to do some work on their boat mooring, and I took the opportunity to photography them - something totally unrelated to my other work, but interesting nonetheless.
The difference between studio and available light nudes was something I had discovered in 1988, with the candle-lit images of S_. In 1989, I started taking nudes of my partner, C_, with 35mm cameras and available light. These images, rather than being about the entire body or a figure in a setting, focused more on the intricacies of skin, light and shadow. The anonymity granted by the lack of identity makes these images far more universal than if they were openly identifiable. At the time I don't think I was aware of this; in retrospect though, these images were among the first I made which captured what I wished to convey though my photography.
Over the summer of 1989, I was enrolled in courses at Nova Scotia College of Art and Design, all of which would, in some way or another, influence my work in the years to come. By far the most influential course was "The Photo Essay", taught by Robert Del Tredichi. Bob's insistence upon thorough coverage of a subject, and his acceptance of many of the ideas I had at the time about art and photography, helped change my work dramatically. My project for the class was on the Imperial Oil Refinery, located in Dartmouth, opposite Halifax. The refinery was an incredible visual site, and I very quickly forgot any concerns I had over environmental issues and became lost in the rich visual landscape constructed out of miles and miles of piping, ducting and ironworks. The 35 rolls of 35mm film which I dedicated to the project yielded 17 final prints, each of which I blue-toned for the final exhibit.
Over the summer of 1989, C_ was blossoming, carrying the child that was to become my daughter, Emmaline. Many of the nudes I took of C_ over the summer were about her changing body, and the wonder that was growing inside her. In late July, we went by boat to one of the harbour islands, enjoying the cool winds and the fresh air. I produced a series of nudes of C_ in the old military ruins on the island. The image above, though beautiful in its original form, has never had the richness of tone which is possible to attain today - the direct sunlight and deep shadows were impossible to capture on colour print paper when I first made the image. Now though, using Photoshop, I've been able to give the image the rich detail and tonal range which is in the negative - improving the final image by ten-fold.
In the following weeks, as the delivery date drew near, I made many images of C_, with the final ones being made on August 2, a week before Emmaline was born. These are, in some ways, the most powerful; I made them both in colour and in black and white, but undeniable the colour is the more successful. The luminescence of the skin over C_'s belly, and the rich warmth of her hair is almost surreal against the midnight behind her.
Almost all the photographs of people I've made in my life have been of friends; the more I try to take photos of people I don't know (usually for money) the less I enjoy it. I just do better when I have a personal involvement with the people in my photos. Much of my portraiture is simply photos of people; I was seldom without my 35mm camera during the early years of my involvement with photography, and thus more often than not, if I was with someone, I was photographing. Occasionally though, I did deliberately arrange to make portraits - the image to the left is an example; L_ and N_ were good friends of mine, and I needed some images to work with in my photo class, so I spent a couple of hours with them one day producing some portraits.
|35mm transparency film|
One of the hardest things about working with the nude is finding people to photograph. In 1989, I thought I solved this by brilliantly deducing that models (or aspiring models) would be more than happy to trade nude modelling for work for their portfolios. Initially this seemed to work out okay, but with P_, there was a communication problem, and she didn't understand that I was interested in full nudity. We did end up making some images though, in the hold of a ship of all places. P_ was comfortable working backless, and rather than scratch the entire session, I simply did what I could with the restrictions imposed. There were a surprising number of good images, all things considered, and while I was frustrated with the outcome, as it was very different from my intent, the few images which did work are very strong.
Emmaline was born on August 9, 1989