October 29, 2002

An Indoor Session with Victoria

Though Victoria now lives less then a block from me, it seems that we never have time to get together and make new images together; between her teaching, dancing and working, and my equally complex schedule, 're lucky if we even get to chat on the phone occasionally.
35mm infrared film
All that being said, since before her house even started last fall, I had my heart set on working with her in her claw-footed bathtub, which she intended to install in her renovated home. So, when the house was finally civilized, and the tub installed and working, we set a date...and managed to keep it!

The day was perfect, with bright sunlight providing enough light through the light curtains for me to work with. I began the session working with infra-red film in my 35mm camera, and Ilford's SFX near infra-red film in my Mamiya RB camera; I was interested to see how these two films worked against each other in diffused, low light situations. One of the greatest gifts of a long term collaboration with a model is the freedom to experiment - with an inexperienced or first-time model, there is less room for experimentation. As I knew from earlier tests, the look of the Ilford SFX was not identical to Kodak's HIE, but in the soft light of the room, it was quite pleasing, and definitely different from what would have been recorded by conventional film.
6x7 cm film
Once we finished working with the couch and window light, we moved upstairs to the bathroom. Having worked on her house renovations, I knew the space was small, but I knew that this would prove to be less of a problem with the wide-angle lenses that I prefer for so much of my work. What I hadn't realized was that the image I'd end up wanting the most would be from the head of the tub.

After making a series of images looking from the foot of the tub, on a whim, I moved to the head of the bath, and checked to see if there were possibilities from that angle. What I saw was beautiful, with the curves of Victoria's body moving along the receding lines of the tub, an interwoven figure within the simplicity of the bath. I wasn't sure if I could get either of my cameras into position there (because of the angled ceiling and close wall), but I knew that I had to try. As it turned out, the Mamiya RB was perfect - once the prism finder was removed, I could see just enough to compose the image, and while I had to focus by guesswork, the final exposure (four seconds in length) more then met my expectations.
6x7 cm film
For such a short session, the couple of striking images are very pleasing. The flexibility of the Mamiya in such closed quarters was unexpected yet crucial to making the day a success, photographically. If I had only had my 35mm equipment, I could never have framed up the image, because of the position of the walls and ceiling.

October 28, 2002

Aurora's Second Session

The second session with Aurora took place just over two weeks later, in the studio. As much as I appreciated and enjoyed the work we had done in the small white room, Aurora felt that the work was not exactly what she was looking for, so we decided to explore the possibilities that a lighting studio provided. The major difference between a lighting studio and a space with available light is that in the studio, you have the full flexibility to arrange the light as you wish - the drawback of this is that everything that the images comprised of his created there's very little to draw upon from inspiration besides what is in front of your camera.
35mm infrared film
I've had several models recently comment on how different it is to work in the studio compared to modeling outdoors, or indoors with available light. Aurora seemed feel that there was very little difference between the two environments and worked just as to happily in the environs of the studio as she had in my house with available light.
35mm infrared film
Where I had used the white room in my house to give the images we made a delicate, intimate feel, in the studio I concentrated on Aurora's figure by using a black background to isolate the body in the frame. My standard lighting approach, with a soft light to one side, and a hard light to the other, worked well with the pregnant figure and prove to accentuate both the curves and swell of the body.
35mm infrared film
Overall, the contrast between the indoor of our first session, and the studio work two weeks later is quite striking. This isn't rooted in a change in Aurora's comfort level, but in the difference in the atmosphere of the two spaces. I think part of my reoccurring frustration with studio photography is rooted in my continually returning to a standard approach to lighting and framing. I won't go as far as to say that this revelation is new, but it certainly will provoke some thought when I return to the studio in the coming weeks and months. As an evolution of our first session, it is a wonderful compliment to our initial images.

October 10, 2002

An Unexpected Pregnancy Session

In the fifteen years I've been working with the Nude, I have time and again thought that the ideal project would be to work with a model through a pregnancy, recording the changes that a woman's body goes through over the nine month term. I have had the opportunity to work with several pregnant models a number of times in the past, but most of these were single-sessions, as opposed to a more involved project.
6x7 cm film
While I was pleased and engaged by the results from these sessions, I was continually left with the feeling that more could be created, given time and enthusiasm. While I have yet to realize the chance to work with a model through an entire pregnancy, a chance encounter with Aurora early in her third trimester, lead to the start of what would become more then eight weeks of work.

Aurora came across my work online, and while she wasn't specifically searching for someone to photograph her pregnancy, she saw in my work something of what she wished for in an image of her pregnancy. After a flurry of e-mail, a meeting in person, and some soul searching on her part, we began working three days later.
6x7 cm film
For the first session (of what I hoped would become many), I opted to work in the small front room in my house; the light was perfect in the late afternoon, and while the space was small, it provided us with a nice intimate space to work in. The white sheets, arranged over the two windows, provided more then enough light, and the bed, while limited in space, provided us with a well defined place to work in.

It usually takes some time for a new model to become accustomed to the process; with Aurora, however, there was little of the usual hesitation over modeling nude for the first time. I think in part this was less because of an adjustment to a new experience, then it was a reality of the change in her own relationship to her body that comes with a pregnancy. Whatever the reason, very quickly Aurora moved into a place where she was relaxed and comfortable, and both of us were focused upon the images we were making together.
6x7 cm film
Something I really enjoy about working with a model within a small define space is that rather then constantly trying to make new, unusual, or extremely compelling images, I tend to focus far more on how the model moves, how she interacts with the space, and how the light wraps around her and gives definition and formed to her body. This approach certainly worked well with Aurora, as by the end of the session, when the light was swiftly dying, we had a number of striking images from the hour's work I hope that these images mark the beginning of what will be a striking body of work revolving around a pregnancy that I feel privileged to document even part of.