A lot of the early work I did with the Nude was experimental - I knew I wanted to image the body, but was unsure how to express that desire in the clearest way. The ability of the camera to crop and isolate an element from the whole fascinated me from the start, so applying this to the nude seemed obvious. The first two images above were made using a macro lens, and exposed at 1 second, which lead to a great deal of softness to the images. Three rolls of 35mm produced a number of strong images, but the two above I still view as very good, where the others have faded with time.
A chronic problem with photographing the nude is finding people to work with - failing that I often used myself as a model. This was, for obvious reasons, easier in the studio, where lighting can be arranged, and the framing carefully composed before the image is made. Still, there remained the issue of composition, subtle refinement and general control which made the experience of doing self-portraits frustrating.
I did a lot of photography in the lighting studio while I was at Nova Scotia College of Art and Design, partially because of my interest in learning all aspects of photography, and partially because it too cold to model outdoors for seven months of the year in Nova Scotia. In 1990, it seemed like the obvious solution to the weather problem, and I started to use it more in my figure work. That said, the lighting studio was not a panacea - and the more I worked with it, the more inhibited and frustrated I felt. Eventually, I would come to feel restricted by its lack of context and stilted environment, but at the time it seemed to be the obvious way to continue working with the Nude throughout the year.
The summer of 1990 was my first summer off in two years, due to attending Nova Scotia College of Art and Design throughout the previous summer. That, combined with a new half-time job, put me in the position of having time to photograph, without the imposition of course requirements and deadlines. Obviously I couldn't work with the Nude all the time; there simply aren't enough people to work with, and focusing that intensely upon a single subject would certainly be detrimental to the creative process, so I let my camera wander. It naturally fell upon the military ruins that abound in Halifax - since I was a kid I'd loved these spaces; recording and exploring them photographically came naturally as an extension of this love. This relationship with the forts would end up being the static parallel to my Nude work - both bodies of work informing and expanding the other.
Early in the summer, I did some images of E_, trying to explore other possibilities of the Nude. As opposed to using a traditional studio set up with a black background and no context, I photographed her on a bed, with ambient room lighting. The final images were somewhat lacking, disappointing both of us. A number caught my eye as potential, but on the whole, the entire session had to be written off as a learning experience. Fortunately E_ knew me well enough to not be phased by the experience, and eventually would model for me more in the future.
Because of my employment, and the additional income that generated, 1990 was an intense time in terms of the volume of photos made. The first time I worked with L_ (above), I made a total of 360 images on 12 rolls of 120 film and six rolls of 35mm. This was partially a reaction to the scarcity of people to work with - the logic went that if I made more images there would be more successes , and partially a result of the teachings of Bob Del Tredichi, from the summer before. Bob's mantra was "shoot shoot shoot", and it had certainly improved my images, giving me the confidence to explore on film that which I would have ignored previously.
The sessions with L_ were an eye-opener in some ways. She had come to model for me through a mutual friend, and though we got along well enough, once she had the images she was looking for, off she went. It was my first session with a model who hadn't been a friend or partner, and it changed the experience somewhat. It was a much more removed experience for me; before, I'd been photographing my partner, or friends, and there had been an interest on their part in assisting me with my work. With L_, the only interest was in the work itself - a compliment to the images I was making, but very different from what I had experienced to date. In some ways, the images of L_ I made in 1990 foreshadowed the work I'd come to produce in the next seven years - the approach would become very different, but the style was starting to emerge, though I was unaware of it at the time.
The summer of 1990 was to have a huge impact on my future work- it was the first summer since I had enrolled in Nova Scotia College of Art and Design where I had time and resources to photograph, without the pressure of school. I began working with the ruins of the Fortress Halifax, and had produced what would eventually become the first of my outdoor nudes. The freedom from classes was daunting at first, and I was in some ways lost without the critique and support I was so used to. Eventually though, I began to photography simply for enjoyment, and once that barrier was broken, everything else flowed wonderfully.
I had a home darkroom in 1990, and the pleasure of being able to print late into the night and then just heading off to bed when I finished was unparalleled. It didn't make a measurable difference in the quality of my work, but it certainly improved my printing skills, and the time in which it took me to go from having made an image to finally seeing it on paper.
In the fall of 1990, as the weather went from cool to cold, I became very frustrated and edgy with nothing to photograph towards my own work. Eventually out of sheer desperation, I started going out at night and making flash exposures. This work never really went beyond contact sheets, but some of it was good - and it certainly was about the only good stuff which I produced between mid September 1990 and January of 1991.
|6x6 cm film
|6x6 cm film
|6x6 cm film