September 12, 1997

A Final Figure Session in Fort Knox (Prospect, Maine)

Similar to the earlier session with Cass and Ellen, my final full day in Maine was full of rain and drizzle. Cass and I had hoped to return to Schoodic and work on the rock with the ocean around us, but given the weather, we had to either scrap the session, or find a sheltered place to work We settled on Fort Knox.
4"x5" film
In 1990 and 1993, I had worked with nudes in the forts, but since then I had stuck strictly to more natural settings. This was more an accident of timing than a deliberate avoidance of ruins as a setting for nudes. Part of the reason I enjoy working with the nude outdoors is that it removes context from the images - images of nudes in "personal" surroundings - a bedroom, living room etc, re-enforce the sense of the individual, as opposed to promoting the universal. While I have made images in personal settings, and feel they are very successful in their own way, they function in a far different way from my outdoor nudes. Using a fort as the setting for nudes is about halfway between the personal nude and the outdoor nude - the fort serves more as an architectural framework than a personal signifier, yet it is not in the wilderness, as my other images are.
4"x5" film
Because this was my last day in Maine, and among my last days of serious photography this year, I brought will me all my film and cameras - my 120 back had kicked-it in the day before, so I had to rely upon re-loading in the field to take more images than I had film holders. By the end of the day I had reloaded three times, for a total of 87 final images (some were misloaded, double exposed, or otherwise flawed). Due to the ambient weather conditions, there were real problems with contrast - the mist and fog in the air brought down the local contrast in many of the images to almost mid-gray, which has made many of the images difficult to a problem aside, I think that many of the images I made on this day have potential - I will have to work with them in the darkroom before I can pass final judgment.
composite of five 4"x5" film images
Many of the images I made of Cass were variations on a theme - this was more because I knew it was my last day and I had film to spare, than because I would prefer to work this way. n several cases, producing several negatives in a single setting lead to surprises - successes where I did not expect them. But on the whole, it reinforced my reason for using a view camera - considered, planned images are far more successful, all things considered, than those taken from the hip, relying upon spontaneity and luck (I mean no insult here to 35mm shooters - many of you can do things I would never dream of attempting with a view camera). The lesson of the day is three-fold - 1) before I next go on a two week photo trip, pay off a minor deity to alter the weather in my favour 2) forts can indeed work as settings for the nude, as a universal as opposed to personal and 3) view cameras are still where it's at for me.

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