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.
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.
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.
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.