March 12, 2000

A Pregnancy Session (Halifax, Nova Scotia)

During the previous week's session Victoria mentioned a friend of hers was pregnant and might like having her photos done before she came to term. After a small flurry of e-mails and phone calls, a date was set, and both Nancy and I crossed our fingers that the day would arrive before the baby.
35mm infrared original

Luck was with us, and Nancy arrived at the studio still pregnant (she was due four days later, and ended up having a baby boy, Lee, six days after our session). After setting up the lights, we started to work,. I borrowed a friend's Mamiya RZ for the session, as it is a much faster camera to work with than a view camera but still gave a very high quality image. The decision turned out to be a good one, as it permitted me to make a large number of images in a relatively short session. 
6x7 film
As the motivation for the session was Nancy's pregnancy, this was the obvious focal point for the images, with us working around the interplay of light and shadow on the belly. The motion of Nancy's strong hands massaging her baby fascinated me and fully half of the images are of her hands moving across her belly, a wonderful depiction of the relationship between the mother and unborn child.

My favourite image of the session came as a surprise. Before I started working, in discussing the session with several friends, they all agreed that the one image to be avoided was a frontal image of the belly - we all thought that it would look too distended. At the close of the session however, I tried a few images of Nancy's belly directly on, filling the frame with the swell of the pregnancy, and in my favourite image, Nancy's hands, encompassing the baby. Framed by the breasts above, and the legs below, it makes for a wonderfully tender image of Nancy and her unborn son.
6x7 film
For the first part of the session, I used a white backdrop, which turned out to be totally inappropriate - the body against it looked too dark, and of all those images, not a single one gave me the results I was looking for. Once I shifted to black, however, things came together, and the same poses that had failed with the white now worked wonderfully, with the dark shadows and rim lighting defining the figure wonderfully.

March 06, 2000

Victoria Returns to the Studio (Halifaax, Nova Scotia)

There seems to be a decided lack of interest on my part in working with studio lighting this winter. Where last winter I worked extensively with the studio, this year, both times I have used the studio to date, I began the session using the natural light that comes in through the window normally located behind the backdrops. As powerful and flexible as studio lights are, I by far prefer reacting to what natural light reveals.
35mm transparency film
We started working with the mirror in colour, building on the work from the first session of the year. I used the much slower Fuji Astia film this time, which gave me a very narrow depth of field. This made the work reminiscent of both the defocused studio images and Thalamus work from 1999. We finished using the window light with Victoria working on a white sheet on the floor, reveling in the descriptive quality of the diffused light.
4"x5" film
The only images we did using the studio flash were a series of portraits; while we've made some strong portraits together outdoors, I still feel I have not made the quintessential "Victoria" studio portrait. With this in mind, I switched over to the studio 4"x5" (as opposed to mine, which could not support the heavy 360mm lens I wished to use) and proceeded to focus on portraiture - with nudity present, but not the focus of the work. The results were pleasing, with three or four interesting images, my favourite of which is to the right. In some ways, portraiture is far harder than figure work, in that it is important to portray something of the model as well as the photographer in the image.
35mm transparency film
After looking at the dancing images from the previous session, both Victoria and I agreed that while they were successful, they were only a beginning of what could be done. While most photographers focus on the strength and power of a dancer's body, we both felt it was the grace and movement which made the dance so powerful, so we decided to begin an experiment with motion blur and dance. At the close of this session, I turned off the flash-pack, and lit the studio with just the modeling lights - providing just enough light for a 2 second exposure. We produced 16 images of Victoria dancing, exposing the film for two seconds during the peak of the motion. The biggest lesson of the session was that two seconds is a REALLY long time to dance slowly; most of the images are almost pure white, as the dance moves were carried out too quickly, and only Victoria's torso and legs were recorded on the film.
6x7 transparency film
All that said, a number of the images met my expectations, with my favourite being on the left. The soft, delicate tones of the image is exactly what I was hoping for, and the motion, which led to just a hint of her torso and hair, giving me a sense of mystery to the image.