March 07, 2004

Another Session with Kylie

After spending the morning working with white sheets and my kitchen light, we shifted our location to a friend's apartment and resumed working. This time, we were working with black cloth as the background. After several years of focusing my available light work on working with white sheets, I decided at the end of 2003 to purchase a large black sheet and see what would come from shifting the background from white to black.
8"x10" film
We started working with Kylie standing in front of the backdrop, with the large picture window and a reflector providing the light. The end result looked much like our earlier studio flash images but the process was very different; whereas in the studio I feel compelled to adjust the lighting for each and every image, with the natural light, I just worked with the pose and composition. This leads to the creation of images in a much more spontaneous manner than I would have done with the same pose in a studio; overall, while the look speaks of a lighting studio, the process of making the images was much closer to the way I prefer working.
Digital original
Once we exhausted the possibilities offered by standing poses in front of the backdrop, we shifted to working with Kylie on the floor, with the black sheet as the cover for the carpet. We began working with the digital camera, making a series of images based upon some rather extreme stretches. In a pause between these poses, Kylie relaxed, and, quite spontaneously, a striking portrait was born. I asked her if she could hold the pose and quickly (well, in 5 minutes or so which is rapid for large format) set up the 8"x10" view camera to make the image. The difference between working with the digital camera, where I could respond to a pose intuitively and swiftly, and using the view camera, where even a small composition change takes a fair amount of effort to make, was incredible. I enjoy working with the digital camera and have made many a successful image with it, but every time I pause the process, and switch to the view camera, I find myself reveling in the flexibility, clarity and control of the larger format film camera.
Digital original, 6 frame stitch
The session wrapped up with Kylie working against the same wall that yielded one of my favorite images of the year to date; this time, instead of having strong directional light, we were working with a softer light - the day was overcast, and direct sunlight was only fleeting, when it existed at all. As I'd learned with her the first time we'd worked in the apartment, Kylie has a particular skill for making the most minimal setting work for her - probably a side-effect of how strong a gaze she has. Very different from a model like Elisabeth, who has the classical "captivating gaze", but time and time again, it is Kylie's face which forms the centre of an image.

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