December 25, 2006

20 Years

Digital original, 10 image stitch
It was twenty years ago today, On December 25, 1986, that I received my first camera, and unknowingly began this life-long journey. At the age of 17, my parents gave me a used Olympus OM-10 and a handful of film, to begin my exploration with. Weeks later I entered my first darkroom, and processed my first wet chemical print.

Since then I have custom built three darkrooms (with one, three and two enlargers in each respectively), and one digital “lightroom”. I have owned at least 25 cameras (small, medium and large format, and digital), and well over 50 lenses (not counting duplicate copies of the same lens), and almost a dozen tripods. I have lost one camera, light meter and a lens to a river, worn out (as in killed through excessive use) three Manfrotto tripods, and one digital SLR.

By rough estimate, I have made 70,000 film images (1,600 rolls of 35mm, 1,400 rolls of 120, and more than 8,000 sheets of 4x5 and 8x10 film) and 48,000 digital images (which after stitching make up about 22,000 actual photographs), for a whopping total of over 118,000 images (the irony here is that the 70K film images were made over 18 years, and the 48K digital were made over four years).
This does not include discarded film images (messed up in processing or incorrectly exposed), or deleted digital files (the 48,000 digital images were made on four cameras which collectively have made 147,000 photographs, meaning I delete approximately two images for each one photograph I kept).

My photography has introduced me to some wonderful people, from my partner, Joy, to supporters, patrons and models. All of these people have helped shape and fill a world that revolves around the creation and celebration of beauty. I have been privileged to photograph some wonderful individuals, both on their own, and as part of couples, with friends and as siblings. I have been granted the gift of photographing one of my best friends through not just one, but two pregnancies. The reward of working as I do is not only the images I create, but the people involved in the process.

The years have not been without the negative, however. I have lost wonderful images through darkroom and computer errors, had an image stolen from an exhibition, and had permission to use a complete body of work revoked by a model who’s life changed in a way incompatible with her modeling history. Permission to use still other images was lost to the end of my first marriage, as part of the fallout of the end of the relationship. These are small prices to pay for the rewards that photography has brought me

Other sorrows are felt deeper, and have taken longer to work through. Five years ago, a friend and model took her own life, something which I have not spoken/written about before. Her passing shook all who knew her, and took much of the magic out of the images we’d made, until I realized her own troubles didn’t tarnish the beauty she created with me, and that the images she’d left behind celebrated her. I still think of her often, and can now look at her photograph and smile.
So the first two decades are complete. I still have much left to say, visually, and with luck and fortune, lots of time to say it all in.

Celebrating 20 Years of Photography!

Digital original

This session marks the completion, to the day, of twenty years of photography, a milestone by any measurement. It was completely spontaneous that L_contacted me early in December, asking if I'd have time to work with her when she was in town for the holidays. After a bit of planning, it was decided that we'd have a session with her and her sister, Fern, on the exact anniversary of receiving my first camera two decades earlier.
Digital original, 16 image stitch
The session was planned for a couple of hours in the afternoon, so I put up a white sheet over a large sunlit window, and we worked with the beautifully diffused light coming through that. In many ways, this was a mirror of my second session working with L_ and Fern in 2002, which was also my first figure test of digital cameras (then a Canon D60).
Digital original, two image stitch
The vast majority of the images were nude portraits of the two, focusing on the affection and comfort that exists between the two sisters. I did make individual portraits of each sister, but with both of them present in the studio, it seemed a shame to spend time working with them separately, when they photograph so well together!

December 21, 2006

Reall Big Prints

My typical print sales are of 12"x18" prints, but recently a collector ordered a set of ten 30"x45" prints. Not owning a printer that could go that big, I worked with Atlantic Photo Supply, to proof and then print the final images.
The challenging of the project was that the order was a mix of digital and film photographs, but it was really pleasing how well the digital files held up at such a large degree of magnification.

December 20, 2006

A Dance Session

Digital infrared original
Though I knew the focus of the session was to be on dance, I began as I usually do with a set of portraits; it would turn out to be the only infrared work I did during the session.
Digital original
This was my second time working with L_ dancing (the first was in 2005), though it was the first time the session that I worked with L_ dancing nude,. I actually hadn't thought of the possibilities inherent with dancing nude and it was only when L_ showed me several silk veils she had with her that I decided we'd start with nudes.
Digital original
In the end, it turned out that one move in particular, spinning with the veil thrust out, worked the best and for about half of the time we worked with her dancing nude, L_ was spinning in place! Not an easy feat.

L_ in the Studio

This was my second time working with L_ dancing (the first was in 2005), though it was the first time the session that I worked with L_ dancing nude, as well as clothed.
Digital Original
I lit the session pretty much identically to our first dance sessions, two lights per side, with two providing rim light (placed beside the backdrop) and two providing the main and fill light (places to the left and right of the camera. All through the session the flash heads were set to minimum power to ensure fast, efficient refreshing, so I could photography as quickly as possible while L_ danced.

I actually hadn't thought of the possibilities inherent with dancing nude (as our previous session had focused so much on the belly dance photos, it just never occurred to me that another approach could work) and it was only when L_ showed me several silk veils she had with her that I decided we'd start with nudes.
Digital infrared original, 6 frame stitch
L_ was kind enough to indulge me in the experiment, and once the lighting was finalized, she began moving and dancing with the veils. In the end, it turned out that one move in particular, spinning with the veil thrust out, worked the best and for about half of the time we work with her dancing nude, L_ was spinning in place! Not an easy feat.
Digital original
The final portion of the session was spent working with L_'s variety of belly dance costumes, mirroring pretty much the session from 18 months earlier.

December 19, 2006

Elena Indoors

Elena and I have worked outdoors several times, but this session marked our first chance to work indoors together (while Elena lives in Halifax, she is far enough away from where I live to make it difficult to meet up to work together without a car being involved).
Digital original, 6 frame stitch
As is my usual approach to working with a model, I had no definite plans in mind for the session, so once Elena arrived, I simply threw up the white sheets, and began to see what would happen. These sessions focus so much on the model's personality and interaction with the camera that it is impossible to plan images ahead, even if that was my style, as too much is dependent upon the interaction between myself and the model. An indoor session with the white sheets reduces the influence of the space around the model (reducing it to clean, simple white), and while the room lighting is still present, it takes a back seat to the model as the real focus of the images.
Digital original, 12 frame stitch
While I am used to indoor sessions focusing on the model's face as much as body (the vast majority of my nude portraits have been made indoors, as opposed to outdoors), it was a real surprise to discover how powerful Elena's gaze was during this session, and how often small smiles crept into the portraits. I seldom make images of models smiling, but Elena's personality is so rooted in her smile that it was impossible during this session to leave it out. Truth be told, I wasn't sure if the smiling portraits would work, but in hindsight, I am glad I made them, both because of how well they worked visually, and, perhaps more importantly, because of how honest they are in representing Elena as a person.
Digital infrared original
Overall, the session was a great success; I alternated between closely framed nude portraits and more loosely composed full body poses, and made a number of interesting bodyscapes to round out the session. The work that Elena and I produced outdoors was so focused on the interplay between the body and the landscape that I'd somewhat forgotten how well she responded to the camera on a personal level - something that carried almost all the images we made during this session.

December 17, 2006

Christine Indoors

Christine and I haven't worked together for some time, so I asked her if she'd be interested in doing some indoor photos. This was also motivated by the arrival of a large mirror, removed from a friend's house during summer renovations, and only recently relocated to my house use with photographic explorations.
Digital original, 5 frame stitch
I'd already produced a body of work photographing models on mirrors, but as I haven't done much work with mirrors since 2000, I was interested to see how my approach to the setting might have changed over the intervening years. Previously, most of my mirror work has been done in a studio with black walls and ceilings, so one of the challenges of doing this in my current location, was controlling the room reflections in the images. I set the mirror in front on the floor in front of a black backdrop that was extended all the way up to the ceiling. This was a work-around solution, and while I did frequently run out of backdrop in the images, it did give me the deep black backdrop I sought for these images, even though it was with some limitation, in regards to camera angle.
Digital original
Once we'd exhausted the possibilities of the mirror set-up (there are only so many ways to pose on a mirror that lead to interesting reflections), we briefly worked with the studio set-up, removing the mirror, and simply photographing with the black background. A number of very striking portraits were made with this arrangement, with Christine's body forming overlapping curves receding behind her face.
Digital infrared original
The final part of the session was spent working with natural light (all the other images were produced with flash), with Christine posing on the futon below the living room window. I have such a strong preference for natural light, that it is always necessary to hold it until the end of a session, if flash is going to be used, or else I never will end up using the studio lighting. I am still getting used to the visual possibilities of my new home, but there's no doubt of the successes of these images of Christine.

December 06, 2006

Winter Light

Digital original, 3 image stitch
As the winter sun sets, its warmth underlights the December clouds, and provides a luminous backdrop for the screen of snow covered trees.
The cool blue sky has just hints of warmth from the winter sun, providing a delicate contrast to the image.