October 20, 2003

An Indoor Session

One of the hardest things to leave behind in Halifax was all the locations I was so familiar with, especially for working indoors in the winter. I have no doubt that I will be able to find striking and vibrant landscape setting for the Nude in New Brunswick but, as much as I love the new house we've moved into, I am painfully aware of how little photography space it has, compared to where I lived in Halifax.
All that being said, you do what you must, and as the days get shorter, and the temperatures begin to drop, all my image-making moves indoors, as much for my sensitivity to cold, as for the models'. While there is nothing like the large deck doors I worked with in Halifax, the new house does has a smaller glass doors in the corner of the kitchen which provide some light to work with.
Digital original
The main focus of Lindsay's interest in modeling is for water nudes; an avid swimmer, he responded quite strongly to my water images but the time of year being what it is, we had to start working elsewhere - indoors in the warm. I often feel with a new model, starting with an indoor session is never bad, as it helps introduce the model to the process with the most comfortable surroundings.
Digital original
Given that it was a first session, the results were very pleasing. With a swimmer's muscle tone, Lindsay's body had very subtle but distinct musculature, which was lovely to work with - the soft white backlighting would catch the edge of a muscle or line and gently set if off against the body before and behind.
Digital original
One unexpected element of the session, was the decision to work against the wall, as well as on the white sheets. This originated in the work I'd produced a year earlier with Aurora, setting her against the light coloured walls of her apartment. The subtle contrast between the lighter and darker part of the body, set against the light gray were surprising and engaging. With the pale gray I had painted the kitchen, I was able to continue this approach with great success. After the strength of this first session, I very much look forward to seeing what Lindsay and I can produce once the warm weather returns and we can begin working with rivers and the ocean.

October 07, 2003

A First Session

By the time the year turns to October, working outdoors becomes somewhat dicey - the weather can turn quite cold quickly, so every session I can squeeze out of the fall is seen as a gift. Nicole and I had initially hoped to work together a week earlier, but Hurricane Juan roared through Nova Scotia that weekend, effectively paralyzing the province for several days and forcing us to reschedule. Fortunately, the weather cooperated, and the next week we were able to meet up and actually get out to work together before the weather grew too cold.
8"x10" film
When we were discussing where Nicole would like to model, she immediately suggested a coastal setting - being from Europe, she wanted images that were distinctly Nova Scotia, and something with the rocks and water of the Atlantic Coast spoke most directly to her. So we headed to Herring Cove, close enough to take advantage of the couple of hours we had to work together, yet right on the ocean. The day was just warm enough to be workable, but between poses, Nicole was more than happy to throw on a sweater in an effort to keep comfortable.

Interestingly enough, the longer we worked, the less the air temperature was an issue (Victoria mentions in the Revealing Beauty video that she feels the body became acclimatized to cooler temperatures during an outdoor session) , and the images happened with a little more fluidity. We made a couple of images that specifically worked with the body in contrast to the ocean, bit the images that I feel are the most successful are the images where her body is set against the strong, angular rocks that line the edge of Halifax Harbour.
8"x10" film
Every time I have a first session with a new model, there is a great unfolding - before the session, everything is uncertain; I have no idea how the model will respond to the process or how they will respond to the space. Some models take time to grow comfortable with the process, while others (experienced and not) seem immediately comfortable with the experience, and seem immediately at home. With Nicole, however, because of the cool weather, we worked out the compositions and poses with her clothed first and then quickly refined the poses and framing when she had disrobed. This put such an emphasis on the physics of making the images with the minimum amount of discomfort for the model that there seemed no time to worry about the response of the model to working with me.
Digital original
One of the most pleasing images of the session was quite a surprise; all my digital images are made in colour, and then post-processed into black and white, but one of the portraits I did of Nicole leaning against a rock wall was composed as a horizontal portrait - and in colour it was very striking - so much so that I decided to leave it that way - the warmth of Nicole's skin goes well with the shock of pink hair.

October 06, 2003

Ingrid with Skulls

My first session working with Ingrid and her skulls left me feeling frustrated - so many images worked, but they were only hints of what could be produced with better lighting and more time. I felt the images needed a more stylized approach, and knew that this could only be achieved using a lighting studio.
8"x10" film
When we were finally able to revisit the idea, one hurricane and almost two months later, the original images were still clear in my mind's eye. While Ingrid has a strong preference for working outdoors (perhaps related to her fey nature), she was willing to do a studio session as she felt the images were strong enough to deserve the effort.

Pretty much every image from the session was inspired by the earlier skull session, but the photos felt finished and polished, where the first session, indoors by available light, seem more like sketches of ideas as opposed to final compositions. The other difference in process came from working with the 8"x10" camera, as opposed to the smaller, faster digital camera. Ingrid is totally comfortable with me using the view camera, so the long wait between exposures as I set up the camera was not a surprise, but the difference between the first session, with more the 80 images being made in 30 minutes, and this session, with 16 being produced in just under two hours was pronounced.
8"x10" film
I normally have a strong aversion to working in the studio, unless there is a clear reason to do so. This session though was perfectly suited for the studio, so there was none of my usual frustration working with the minimalistic space. I have spent much of the past four years working with white backgrounds, but for most of this session, I returned to my original studio approach - a featureless black background, with the model set against it with strong side lighting, to separate them from the blackness that surrounds.
8"x10" film
Towards the end of the session however, I decided to try some images with Ingrid and the skull on white. Rather than use the white seamless paper as a backdrop, I opted to use the same white sheets I use in so much of my available light work indoors. This worked well enough, with a beautiful contrast between the model's skin, the symmetry of the skull, and the rumpled sheets but I cannot help but wonder if the image would have been stronger with a totally seamless, featureless surroundings. Perhaps this will be the approach of a third skull session in the future.