July 07, 2001

Cassandra, Nova Scotia V (Feltzen South, Nova Scotia)

This morning dawned cool, bright and sunny; less then ideal weather for working in the great outdoors. Fortunately the day before we'd discovered a wonderful ram's skull (in the collection of my friend and host, Jeff), and both Cassandra and I were keen to explore the possibilities of combining the skull with the Nude (as I had done two years before with Victoria in Alberta).
35mm infrared film
I began the work with the skull with Cassandra sitting in a chair covered in a black cloth; I knew that her skin and the bone would work really well against the black, and also felt that it would be easier to strike poses with Cassandra lying comfortably. This worked well for a number of image made both on the 4"x5" and the 8"x10", but quickly I realized that the body and the skull both were too cramped on the small chair, so we shifted to a standing space, lit by the sun coming through the large windows and deck doors. With some careful arrangements of reflectors, cloth backdrops (held by my friend Jeff) and model., we managed to minimize the distractions, and bring the images to bear fully on Cassandra and the skull.
8"x10" film
The compositions based on the skull and Nude were surprisingly easy to find - I suspect this is due to the natural form of the skull, but also, I think its form resonates in a person's mind, and pulls at something primal. Regardless of the reason for it though, the end result is striking, with the sweeping horns of the Ram leading the eye into Cassandra's pelvis, to rest upon the stark skull set against her bare skin. With all the machinations we went through to create the image, I found myself longing, like I had in Alberta, for a lighting studio to work with the body and skull in. That wasn't an option, however, and all things considered, I am very pleased with the results.
8"x10" film
The session came to a close with me setting aside the skull, and making a number of portraits of Cassandra, again lying on the couch. The strongest image, among my favourite of the many portraits I did of her over the two week, was framed so tightly as to show almost nothing but Cassandra. Taking the full advantage of the 8"x10", the image has only one narrow plane of focus, with her eyebrows tack sharp, and most of the remainder of the image delicately defocused.

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