December 31, 2002

The Year's Last Session, Working with L_

The final session of 2002 took place on New Year's eve, with L_ coming over for a mid-afternoon session. Though it is the last session of the year, I still miscalculated the light and by the time the session started, the light was failing, and exposures at the very beginning of the session were already pretty long.
8"x10" film
Given that the exposures were going to be 1/4 second or longer, L_ was pretty much limited to prone poses, lying upon the white sheets and keeping as still as possible. This didn't present a problem from the perspective of image making, as the light cascading across her body was more then enough to provide some beautiful images, but it was an issue from the point of view of varying the composition; there are only so many poses possible with a figure lying on a bed.
8"x10" film
One of the first images we made was more of a snap-shot then a careful, considered composition. As she was waiting for me to set my camera up, she crossed her arms and looked at me - I glimpsed the gesture and instantly asked her if she could hold it. About three minutes later, the exposure was made, with the focus carefully drawing attention to her mouth and lips in the lower corner of the image. Because of the low light, I had to work with a narrow focus anyway, but I suspect that the image would have been weaker with a full range of focus.
8"x10" film
After making a series of compositions exploring the lines of L_'s back set against the luminous, out-of-focus sheets behind her, I shifted to making some sitting portraits. The light by this point had dropped so much that I decided to push my film to an exposure of E.I. 800 (pushing film lowers the shadow detail in an image but, in this case, I felt it was better to make the images, than worry about retaining all the shadow detail). Because L_ was sitting with her head against the window frame, it was possible for us to make images with exposures a full second long. Of the four compositions I made only two that had no motion blur; the images are very pleasing, with a relaxed, casual feel to them that is often absent from my indoor portraiture.

December 29, 2002

Miranda & Victoria Model Together

With the arrival of winter and the resulting shift to working indoors, I'm constantly trying to push my work forward, be it through working with new models (as above), or through building more upon the body of work already begun with previous models. In the case of this session, I go to both build upon the images I'd already made with Miranda and Victoria, and combine the two bodies into some new work.
6x7 cm film
Working with two models together brings an extra element to a session, indoors or out. In many cases, when I work with two models, they are in a relationship, and so the images revolved around the intimacy and affection that exist between lovers, but in a case like this, where the two models are friends, a different approach is called for. I used the white sheet setting that I have grown so fond of for indoor work, and explored the visual possibilities that evolved between the two models.
8"x10" film
Most of the first portion of the setting was spent exploring bodyscapes, working with the two model's figures to create visual planes of focus and lines. In many ways, this is the simplest approach to working with two models, an approach of compare and contrast. Out of this work came several striking images, on which one is displayed at the beginning of this entry. The simplicity of the lines of Victoria's back and bottom, set against the curve of Miranda's hip and pelvis result in an image classical simplicity. I wish it was easy to make images like this, because if it was, I would create them more often.
6x7 film film
As much as I enjoyed working with the visual possibilities of the lines and flow of the models, after a number of compositions, about half-way through the session, I shifted to images that combined the body abstracts with more traditional portrait nudes. This was surprisingly difficult because of the low light (while the day was not stormy, it certainly was not bright), and the fact that it was best when falling across the bed,. All that said, a change of arrangement (including moving a computer desk) and we had a working set-up - I had to place the models right by the window to get enough light. The portraits that finished off the session were interesting; the implied intimacy of the nudity, combined with the posing and positioning of the two models makes for a fairly complex and almost contradictive image with Victoria's gaze looking past the torso of Miranda directly into the eyes of the viewer.
6x7 film film
Miranda had to leave early, but Victoria offered to stay for another couple of images, to make the most of the day's light. We finished off the session with a number of images, ranging from portraits to bodyscapes. One of my favourites is an image of Victoria's feet, legs and hips, leading up through the frame to the top right. One of the elements I have been experimenting with recently is framing images on angles

December 16, 2002

Elizabeth Models in Natural Light

One of the greatest advantages of working with little in the way of pre-planning is that I can quickly respond to what happens during a session, without having to abandon ideas or images which I'd  hoped to work on. With outdoor work, this is about the only way I can work, given that I have no control over the weather, and often choose to work in places I haven't been to before. Even in an indoor session, however, the simple act of starting a photo session without any preconceived notions in mind is advantageous, because too often, a planned image or idea acts only as a distraction from what is spontaneously occurring in front of the camera lens.
6x7 cm film

When I set up this session with Elisabeth, I'd thought that it would probably an abstract body-lines session; between the work with Kim and Natasha, many of the new images I'd made of late were portrait nudes. I felt that Elisabeth would provide me with an excellent opportunity to focus upon the lines and form of the body, and not just upon the power of the gaze. How wrong I was to try to anticipate how the session would end up flowing.
Digital original
For a new model's first session, I almost invariably begin by making a series of portraits once they've disrobed. This is for several reasons; partially to explore the possibilities of the model's face, but also because it is often more familiar to have a camera pointed at their face, then at their unclothed body. With Elisabeth, as soon as I composed the first images, I knew that most of the session would focus upon nude portraits; the rich texture of her light hair, combined with her comfort in front of the camera made for a great number of successful images, all revolving around her gaze. As I said above, I had thought the session would provide me with an opportunity to move away form the specific, and focus upon the general; but once I realized how striking her portrait was, I couldn't help but focus upon it.
Digital original, 2 frame stitch
By the end of the session, I was very pleased with the flow of the session; several more abstract images came out of the afternoon, but most of what was stuck in my mind's eye were the numerous portraits. The only real frustrations from the session was that it was too dark to use the 8x10 camera effectively, thereby relegating the most striking images to medium format. With luck, I'll have more time to work with Elisabeth, and be able to explore the possibilities that an 8"x10" camera will present.

December 15, 2002

Natasha's First Session

My work is very much dictated by the world in which I live; it flows in cycles, just as my late spring to early fall work embraced the great outdoors, my late fall to early spring work revolves around enclosed spaces, either available light session, or studio sessions using electronic flash. I'd love to spend the entire year working with the Nude in landscape, but Nova Scotian winters preclude this, so I change to working indoors.
35mm infrared film
Before 1999, I spent most of my winter months in hibernation, using the time to do darkroom work and assimilate the images from the previous year. From that year onward, however, I have pretty consistently photographed year round, as subjects (people or places) and resources permit.
35mm infrared film
Like Kim, Natasha's first exposure to my work was at the the release of the "Revealing Beauty" documentary in November. After meeting and talking, we decided for various reasons to place
our first session in the lighting studio, where we could make the most of the time Natasha had to model (two days after the session, she was leaving Nova Scotia for two weeks).
Digital original
As it turned out, only about half the session was spent using the studio flash; one of the cameras I was using for the session had problem with its flash synch; after fifteen minutes of frustration, I changed the session around, opening up some of the blinds on a studio window and changing the session over to a natural light one. After suspending a white cloth for a backdrop, I had a more than adequate setting to work within (there is a certain amount of irony behind being in a studio with thousands of dollars of lighting, and resorting to using available light). Truth be told, as much as I enjoy working with the electronic flash, the most dynamic part of this session was the available light portion. Mostly, this was because of the beauty of the light coming in through the diffused studio windows, but also it was the simplicity of working with the model in response to the simple, unchanging light, as opposed to positioning the lights and reflectors in the studio, and having a near infinite combinations of lighting possibilities.
6x6 cm film
As seems to be the case lately, this session was predominately a portrait session, taking
advantage of Natasha's comfort with the camera. Split between the available light images
against the white sheet, and the studio images against a black background, the session shifted
back and forth between Nude portraits and more traditional nudes, focusing upon Natasha's
body alone.

December 09, 2002

A Final Session with Aurora

As Aurora's due date comes closer and closer, each session we have is more and more likely to be our final; I am already more then satisfied with the images we have created, but each additional session holds the promise of more successes to add to the body of work. It is an unusual feeling, working with a project of such specific dimensions - once Aurora has given birth, the work will have come to a conclusion. With the exception of the Victoria, Alberta and Cassandra, Nova Scotia portfolios, which were bodies of work produced for specific purposes, all my work is open ended, and on-going.
6x7 cm film
Aurora and I began the session working with her standing against a white sheet; I'd first used this approach with R_ in March and was very pleased with the results. This technique marked a distinct change in how I was approaching photographing Aurora. Almost all my work with her to date has focused upon the curves and flow of her pregnancy, using both the studio and available light to give accent to her figure. At the beginning of this session, however, I used the flat light to put an emphasis on the outline, as opposed to the edge-line.
6x7 cm film
A high-key approach, in which very little of the image was dark, accentuated the overall form, as opposed to surfaces and textures. The poses were somewhat limited, partially because the focus was so clearly upon the pregnancy, and partially because of Aurora's limited mobility. Over the past couple of months spent working with her, this was the first session where Aurora's pregnancy seemed to in any way hinder her.
Digital original
After we finished with the standing images, Aurora and I moved into the bedroom, with the white sheets now being used to diffuse the sunlight outside. Our first session in October used the same approach, so I was glad to return to the setting at the close of our work together. Out of this work came one of my favourite images of Aurora, sitting cross legged with the light cascading over the torso and belly. I made the image in both colour and black and white, and while both are equally
successful, the warmth of her skin against the cool sheets makes the colour photograph my preferred of the two.
Digital original
The session was finished off with a number of images being made of Aurora in the shower. Unlike
the bathroom at her apartment, this shower was lit by a skylight, which provided a soft, even light (it wasn't terribly bright though, which led to exposures of 1/15th of a second at f/2.0). A number of the shower images were very pleasing, including the one I display here, with the beauty of Aurora's pregnancy made the focus of the image through the sweep of her arm. A couple of days after this session, Aurora successfully delivered her baby and both mother and child are doing well.

A First Session with Kim

As I mention above, apart from the work with Aurora, not too much has happened photographically speaking this fall - all my attention was focused upon taking full advantage of the opportunity Aurora had so kindly provided to me. The fact that I was distracted by domestic realities (trying to sell my house) only made the decision to focus upon Aurora, to the exclusion of other models, easier.
6x7 cm film
With the release of the "Revealing Beauty" documentary in November, however, my work was placed before a new audience, and with that came a number of people interested in working with me. As Aurora's due date looms, and things begin to semi-settle down on the house side of things, I was more then interested in the possibilities that new models might offer.

Kim contacted me after seeing the video, having become very engaged with the ideas and possibilities represented by my work. We met and discussed working together, and a week later, met again to begin making some images. We worked in my living room, where I used white sheets to create a light, luminous space for her to model in. I worked between all three camera formats, concentrating on medium format, but bringing the 35mm infra-red and 8"x10" camera into play as was appropriate.
6x7 cm film
As much as I realize the inherent benefits of long term collaborations with models, such as the relationship I have with Victoria, there is an equal advantage to a first session with a new model. The total unknown that hangs in the air as a first session with a new model begins is almost magical - there is just no way to anticipate how a model will interact with myself, and what images will come out of the first session.

Because of Kim's long and svelte figure, many of the images I made had strongly emphasized diagonals, both because the aspect ratio of the cameras I was using was too box-like for the images, and because the diagonal compositions created an increased tension within the frame. With my outdoor work, I seldom skew the horizon, preferring to let the images flow be generated by the lines of the landscape, but with indoor images, it is so easy to influence how an image flows by simply tilting the camera.
Digital original
By the end of the session, Kim and I had produced a number of very successful images, ranging from delicate, engaging portraits to beautiful bodyscapes focusing on the lines and flows of her hips and legs. About the only real frustration with the session lay in the time of year, and the reality that it will be months before Kim and I will be able to work within the environment that I most enjoy, the great outdoors.

December 08, 2002

An Indoor Session with L_

Because of the time-based aspect of my work with Aurora (she is only going to be pregnant for so long), I have not worked much with other models since the beginning of the fall. Pretty much any time I have had to make or work on images has been put into the documentation and exploration of Aurora's pregnancy. I had initially put aside today for another session with Aurora, but when I learned she was not available, I eagerly seized the chance to work with another model as a change of pace, and asked L_ and Krista if they were free and interested in working with me. Fortunately, neither model had plans, so we agreed to meet, and see what happened.
8"x10" film
As it turned out, Krista was unable to come, so what I had anticipated to be a two-model session quickly morphed into a continuation of my collaboration with L_. Like may of our sessions before, much of the work we produced focused upon portrait nudes, combining the power of the gaze of the model with the implied comfort and intimacy of her nudity.
Digital original
In many ways, this session is a continuation of two bodies of work; my ever-growing series of nudes of models using available light and white sheets, and my collaboration with L_. Working within such a minimalist set of parameters imposes a definite sense of continuity to the white-sheet work, while the addition of more imagery to the body of work that L_ and I have produced over the last year and a half simply builds upon an already solid foundation.
Digital original
Almost every image of the session had at least an element of portraiture to it; L_'s comfort with the camera and the process combined with the beautiful light of the afternoon made it hard to resist. I seem to go through phases in my work where I will concentrate on bodyscapes and universal images (meaning images where the model is not presented as an individual, but more as an "every-body") for a while, and then flip back to focusing upon the Nude combined with portraiture. I am not sure if the reason for this focus at the moment is spending so much time photographing Aurora's pregnancy, which inevitably focused upon the body along, but there was certainly an unconscious focus on portraiture during the session with L_.
Digital original
The close of the session was spent with the last of the afternoon's light (the sun is now pretty much set by 4:30 pm) in the bathroom, working with L_ in the shower. The combination of colour images and water on her skin lead to a number of striking photographs. These are very much rooted in the work with Aurora in the shower, and while my bathroom only has a skylight, the subtle highlights from skylight helped give the images a sparkle that keeps them alive.