Archive for the ‘Nudes’ Category
Tho V., Androgyny
Tho V., Rear View
Tho V., Standing
Three from a series I did of a friend of mine from California who is a dancer and massage therapist. Since these were taken, he apparently had a previously undiagnosed heart defect that decided to make itself known and required open heart surgery. I haven’t seen him since, so I have no idea what the scar looks like. I’ll try to connect up with him again and see if he’d pose, scar and all.
All images shot on a 4×5 camera. Film is Ilford FP4+.
Back in June, I was up in New York for a quick getaway. While there, I bought a Contax RTS III camera and 50mm lens. I bought the camera for two reasons: a, because I always wanted one and it was a sweetheart of a deal, and b, because I had a project in mind to use it for. I was cleaning out the film fridge in the basement and discovered I had a half-dozen rolls of Kodak b/w Infrared film sitting there. I always liked that film and what it could do, so I thought I’d shoot my remaining stock of it. Turns out, the old HIE was so old that even though it had been refrigerated, it still had horrible base fog. To boot, the older rolls in the batch also had an emulsion coating problem for which the Kodak HIE was infamous – there were pinholes in the emulsion which would lead to black spots in the image. Back in the day, this was an unforgivable flaw as it was really hard to work around when enlarging. Today, not so bad if you scan your film and can fix it in Photoshop, a pixel at a time if need be. So now it’s not unforgivable, just really annoying. Between the two problems, I decided to forego the Kodak, but I still had the jones on for doing some infrared again.
Efke, an eastern european film manufacturer, still produces an infrared film, with much finer grain than the Kodak had. The downside is that this film is EXTREMELY slow – box speed without a filter is ISO 100. Manual exposure calculation after factoring in the filter puts it around ISO 1. Yes, that’s right. ISO 1. So you should base your exposures on 1 second at f16 in full sunlight. I decided I’d give it a try anyway. Efke makes two versions of their infrared film – 820c and 820c Aura. Allegedly the Aura version has no anti-halation coating so you in theory get the infrared “glow”. I don’t know if there really is a difference in the final results, but I shot this on Aura just in case. To gain maximum infrared effect with this film, I used a Hoya RM72 filter, which is a very deep red filter, almost opaque, and it blocks most of the visible light from recording on film. The results were hit and miss – I chanced it and let the camera meter through the filter, so sometimes I got useable exposures, and sometimes I got bubkes. Here are the best two from the shoot.
Eliot K, Rock, Potomac River
Eliot K, Reclining, Potomac River
I want to give a big thanks to my model, who goes by Eliot K as his professional name on Model Mayhem. He was a real trooper, getting up at 7 AM to get out along the Potomac and shoot while the air was relatively cool (under 90 degrees – this was a real scorcher of a heat wave, with the actual air temperature reaching 98-100 and the heat index putting it up over 102-104 for the high) and the light was rich in infrared. He had the great idea to pack along a cooler with ice and bottled water for us, and it was a life-saver. He also had no problem at least attempting whatever pose I tried to put him in, and never fussed about getting in the river or standing in a bunch of plants, so long as there was no poison ivy (and I know what poison ivy looks like, so that was an easy one to solve).
For those who aren’t familiar with infrared photography, what we’re talking about here is not thermal photography like the night-vision stuff you see in TV and movies. This is photography that is still based on reflected LIGHT – not heat. Infrared photography works with the near-infrared portion of the visible light spectrum, just beyond what your eye can see. You need a specialized red filter to record only the near-infrared portion of the spectrum being reflected by your subject. Otherwise, you’ve just bought some really expensive but otherwise unremarkable black-and-white film. You CAN duplicate this with digital today, but the downside is that in order to do so, you have to permanently alter your camera to shoot infrared, at which point it becomes a dedicated IR camera.
Well, I just got finished loading up film holders in preparation for the next few days’ shooting. I have one shoot scheduled for tomorrow evening after work, and another for Saturday evening. I may well be certifiably crazy for the amount of darkroom work this will have me doing – I’ve got 10 sheets of 14×17, 20 sheets of whole plate (6.5×8.5 inch), and 16 sheets of 5×12 loaded and ready to shoot. I may be even more insane for even considering the jumps between formats. I’ll risk it though because I have so many ideas – I want to try and shoot my three-panel “folding screen” idea on the 14×17 with at least one of my models, I’ve got some more ideas for the “human commodities” series, and I also have ideas for the body panoramas. I’ve got to remember to bring some of my costume pieces from my RenFest outfit tomorrow as well as the shopping bags for the Human Commodities bit. See what I mean about crazy? At least this is a GOOD crazy.
Having been a big collecting fan of 19th century studio portraits, I thought it would be interesting to take on the genre and see if I could manipulate the conventions and subvert them while preserving enough visual continuity that you could visually trace the lineage. Here are my first two efforts. I chose diptychs of my models nude and clothed to inaugurate the series; placing the nude image to the left means the nude reads first in a western left-right reading order, giving primacy of meaning, a naturalness, to the nude, which conflicts with conventional social notions of the nude as an un-natural state. It questions the construction of identity through the construction of the clothed figure. I have printed them in palladium, again, to reinforce the stylistic referent to the Victorian era studio portrait through the look and feel of the image tone. Granted the vintage originals would have been printed in albumen, but this is certainly close enough.
Sam K, Conversation with a Lamp
This was another really busy photo weekend. Yesterday was a shoot with two models in the studio. Today was darkroom work. Yesterday was interesting – I went in to the studio in the morning to help out one of my studio-mates by shooting with two models he had brought in from New York and Philly to do some portfolio development work with them. The first one to arrive was a bouncing ball of unfocused energy. I suspected there would be trouble as short attention spans and I don’t get along well. Things worked out ok in the end because I got some decent shots with him, but getting there was, well, challenging. Knowing what I know now, would I hire him as an art model? NO. Would he be fine for a fashion shoot or as a fitness model where poses only last 3-5 seconds each? Sure. I hate to stereotype, but this guy lived up to the male equivalent of Cameron’s supermodel girlfriend in In & Out who couldn’t figure out how to use a rotary phone.
The second model arrived shortly afterward, and he and I shot while the first guy pumped up with some resistance bands. Mr. Fitness (I’ll call him that to distinguish him from the second model) wanted to shoot second even though he was there first because he wanted to get pumped up first. That was the first strike against him.
I generally keep a quiet set so I can concentrate on the work and communicate with my model. Mr. Fitness decided he was bored, so bored I had to stop, dig out the iPod speaker dock that belongs to the studio and plug it in for him so he could have some music. He promptly selected some very obnoxious hip-hop that he then played at an intrusive volume level. Not impressive.
My set that day was my first attempt at re-creating after a fashion the old Victorian photo parlor feel, with some IKEA drapes and tie-backs I found at Bed Bath & Beyond pulled out a couple feet from a backdrop. Since my studio is shared, I can’t build anything permanent, but instead the whole thing gets pulled together with some Manfrotto Auto-Poles which just happen to reach the ceiling of the studio with a couple inches to spare. I think the effect is working, although I’d still like some bigger tassels on the tie-backs. See some of my previous posts here from my collection of CDVs for examples. Images from the shoot will follow. One set of images I did of each model had them posing clothed and nude in the same pose. It’s a visual riff on the standard CDV portrait concept, but with of course modern attire, and then pairing it with nudity, certainly something you wouldn’t see in most Victorian CDVs. I also had some fun posing one model with a neat Art Deco floor lamp we have sitting around the studio.
I did run into some major frustration with gear, as the shutter on my preferred lens, the 240mm Heliar, decided it wasn’t going to trigger my studio strobes anymore. Adapt and overcome, a-la the US Marines – I pulled out another lens I have of the same focal length, but mounted in a modern shutter that never refuses to trigger my strobes, and carried on. Can I entirely fault the Heliar? Not really – perhaps it’s too much to expect that it trigger the strobes reliably, after all the shutter is nearly 70 years old. I’ll feel lucky if I work as well as that shutter when I’m 70.
Mr. Fitness capped the day off by not listening to directions while helping me strike the set so my studio-mate could get his backdrop and lighting arranged. He managed to completely release the background support on his side of the background, dropping it from maximum extension to fully collapsed in the blink of an eye, wrinkling the seamless paper and bending the pin on the other background support. To his credit, he did apologize for wrinkling the seamless.
Today was a big darkroom day. I started the morning off doing a major cleaning in the darkroom. I had been accumulating all these chemical storage bottles from back in the day when I did enlarging onto silver gelatin paper. I went through all of them, pouring the thoroughly exhausted remains of several batches of Dektol and Ansco 130 down the drain, followed by copious amounts of water. Most of the other bottles were fortunately empty. They all got packed up in plastic storage bins and put in the downstairs bathroom. Now I have enough space that I can put all my print developing trays under the sink when I’m running film in the Jobo, and the Jobo has a place to live other than the hall floor when I’m printing. Have I said before how tiny my darkroom is? It’s about 7′ by 8′, with a 6’3″ ceiling. It works quite well under the circumstances. Having gotten that out of the way, I ran four batches of sheet film in the Jobo. 15 sheets of 5×7 and four sheets of whole plate. I’ve got one more batch of 5×7 from Saturday to run, then I’m all caught up, and ready for NEXT weekend! I’ll go from a souping fiend to a printing fiend for the rest of October.
This weekend was a really busy weekend in my studio. I was supposed to have a shoot on Saturday. The model I had made arrangements with cancelled on me, but with more than reasonable advance notice, so I’m not pissed off about it – he gave me two days heads up. I’ve had some models flake out two hours ahead, some an hour after the shoot was supposed to start, and some who never bothered to call or cancel (that was the previous weekend, for example). I was talking to my studio-mate who had the studio booked for Sunday, and he said, “I’ve got two models coming in on Sunday, why don’t you work with them before I get there? I need someone to keep them occupied, and it’ll be a big help giving them a chance to work with someone who has a very different style of shooting, because they’re new to the business”. I was more than happy to help out, as it meant free models for me, and I’d be helping out a friend anyway. Since I had the studio booked for Saturday anyway, I went in and did some still life work using a flower I bought whose name escapes me but looks like a cross between a leafy cactus and a gigantic q-tip. I left my stage setup I had created (I took the old curtains I had from the previous studio and made a little ‘stage’ setup for a backdrop) for Sunday, as I thought it would be great to work with the models as well.
WELL, thus go the best laid plans of mice and men. I get in to the studio Sunday morning, meet the first model, Justin, a 6’4″ ex- football player, and get ready to shoot. On the third test pop of my flash, what happens but one of the capacitors in the power pack goes tits up. And I don’t have my own backup. I call my studio mate who is coming later, and he says just use his, which happens to be compatible with my accessories. So another half-hour goes by digging out his flash unit and setting it up. We do get on with the shoot, and once things get moving, it goes well. Justin is a good model and understands how to create dynamism in his body – I had no trouble setting him in poses that accentuated his physique and worked well with the somewhat exotic format I was shooting in – I was trying out the 5×12 for human figure work, mostly shooting verticals. Working with me, from a models’ perspective, is a real challenge and a physical workout because I need them to hold poses for an extended period of time while I compose each shot. I’m not shooting like a typical fashion photographer who likes to ‘run-n-gun’ and fire off hundreds of photos in an hour. I think with Justin, in about 1 1/2 hours, we took 8. I had him holding a pose for sometimes four or five minutes while I played around under the dark cloth.
My studio mate is a good friend (loaning me his strobes is an instant qualification!), but he’s a bit frantic. He’s a fashion photographer and likes to run-n-gun, for one thing, and he’s just a bit keyed up all the time anyway. Fortunately Justin and I wrapped our shoot just before he and the other model got there. The other model is a college student named Peter, (only) 6’2″, and about 2/3 the body mass of Justin. Peter was tragically late because of traffic and poor directional sense. What he lacks in timeliness, he makes up for in facial features. He’s one of those models who looks relatively ordinary when you pass him on the street, but when you see him through the camera lens, his face just screams High Fashion (that’s actually a good thing). They set up and shot while I went to the Nationals game with my father. When I got back, they were still there, and since my set had been taken down, we did a few shots in the air shaft outside the studio, which has a really cool steel security door and lots of exposed brick. Another great thing about shooting in the air shaft is that because it has these nice tall walls, you get beautiful soft indirect light from overhead – like a north light window. It’s very even, very consistent – you can meter once and not have to re-meter for hours. Reflectors are very helpful though because it is a top-down light and makes people into sunken-eyed zombies if you don’t bounce a little fill on their faces.
In talking to Peter about the poses I was looking for, I asked him to do a nude. I knew because he was agency represented that frontal nudity was a no-no, so I explained the pose would keep his intimate parts covered, and he was fine with it, but then he asked if he could cover himself with a sock. I find the whole ‘hide it in a sock’ business to be laughable – I’m not there to stare at your anatomy, and if someone IS nude in real life, do they ever run around with a sock on their penis? NO. We got that out of the way and went on. I did some head-shots of him with the 5×7 Canham, getting to put some film behind the 240mm Heliar I have for the first time with a human subject. The image on the ground-glass positively glowed! The shallow depth-of-field at f5.6 just made the features that were sharp SNAP, and the brick wall in the background looked like a painting seen through running water, it was so smooth. I’m DEFINITELY taking this outfit with me when I go out west for some figure-in-the-landscape shooting!
When I shoot, I’m used to shooting all by myself, no assistants, no “creative input” from other photographers. Sometimes having the helping hand is very welcome (adjusting lights, etc). Other times, not so much. My studio mate was watching the shoot with Peter, and while I was still arranging a pose, he had to jump in and start directing the model because he had this love handle that showed up only when in a certain kind of pose. I would have seen it and adjusted his pose, but I didn’t get the chance. GRRRR. And then, to make matters worse, I wasn’t done shooting before my studio mate mentioned a shot he wanted to do in the air shaft as well, and boom, the two of them were off doing their own shot. Moral lesson here – assistants are fine, but two principal photographers probably shouldn’t share the set – too many chefs end up putting someone’s finger in the chili.
Three recent gum bichromate prints. Gum bichromate is perhaps the most labor-intensive photographic process because it involves building an image, one layer of pigment at a time. Most gum images need at least two layers, but often three or four are a minimum. Even working rapidly, you can only do about two layers a day. Gum is one of those processes that is all about the choices you make adding up to a finished product. All three images are whole-plate size images, 6.5 by 8.5 inches. Whole plate is the original photographic format, having been designed by Louis Daguerre for his first camera. Whole plate has a long and varied history, having come in and out of fashion repeatedly. It is enjoying a small modern-day renaissance not only for its historical echoes but for its aesthetically pleasing proportions and relative size.
This first image is a gum over Ziatype. Ziatype is a printing-out version of Palladium. A printing out process is one where the image is fully formed during exposure, and does not need a chemical developer to produce a final image. Ziatypes are really neat because they offer a very wide range of contrast, color and tonality depending on how you mix the chemistry. I do the Ziatype under the gum to start with a sharp base image with well-defined shadows and midtones. The gum builds on top to add physical texture and create color.
The second image is a pure gum image, with only two layers, black and blue. As you can see, it is possible to create a successful gum image with only two layers of pigment. I manipulated the layers to bring out the blue color and the detail in the hair.
The final image is a four layer gum bichromate. It is a pretty accurate representation of the model’s actual skin color, but it is made from a single black-and-white negative. I worked it over with a watercolor brush during the printing process to bring out the highlights on the model’s back.