Since I got a request for more of the figure studies, I thought I’d post a few. These were all done on the old Polaroid Type 55 Positive/Negative film. What made Type 55 unique was the fact you could produce both a print and a re-useable negative. The catch always was that you got either a good negative and an overexposed print, or a good print and a thin negative. I think most people opted for the blown-out print, because the stuff was too expensive to throw away the negative.
I submitted three photos to the Onward competition for emerging photographers. Emerging is defined in this case as not having a current ongoing relationship with an art gallery. I’ve had shows, both solo and group, but I’m not represented by any art gallery on an ongoing basis. Perhaps by the time I retire it will happen. In any case, Onward will be good exposure for my work (this time I’m submitting some of my older pieces, male figure studies shot with Polaroid Type 55 back when it was still available).
There are two rounds of judging – the first round, by JPEG only, will be complete and the results announced by December 16. A second round will be judged from actual submitted prints come January, with final results by February 1. The exhibition will take place in March at Project Basho in Philadelphia.
here’s a teaser of one of the images I submitted.
I was determined to avoid crowds and public gatherings on July 4th. Post 9/11 I get nervous in large crowds, especially when ingress and egress are difficult, and when large numbers of them are drunk. Not that my PTSD* gets triggered and I feel like the walls are closing in or anything (although I did get near-panic at Obama’s first inauguration- that was just WAY too many people and it was hard to move- even if something rather pedestrian happened like someone fell and got hurt, or a bottle of carbonated beverage froze and burst and people panicked THINKING it was a gunshot, you could have gotten trampled to death in the stampede!). Anyway, back to the real story – so I wanted to avoid the National Mall, because it’s just a filthy zoo of humanity on the 4th, so I called up a friend who had expressed an interest in posing for me, and we went out along the Potomac to some spots I know that are fairly private and make for good shooting. These are the first few images from the shoot (we’re still negotiating the use of the rest of them).
These first two portraits I particularly like. The profile shot was taken with a Rolleinar close-up adapter on my Rolleiflex. The Rolleiflex by itself has a minimum focus distance of 3 feet, which is fine for general subjects, but for flowers, bugs, macro photography in general, and even tight portraits, 3 feet is not close enough. So Rollei in their infinite wisdom invented the Rolleinar close-up filter sets. They come in four strengths – 1,2,3 and 4. The 4 is extremely rare and you almost never see one on the market in any size. The #1 cuts the minimum focus down to 1.5 feet, the #2, to .75 feet, and so on. I have a #1 and a #2. At some point I MAY get a #3. Some people complain that the Rolleinars add too much “distortion” to portraits and as such are bad for doing them. I say shots like this disagree with that notion. If you need more proof, check out the work of Richard Avedon, as well as my friend Sanders McNew (the book cover for “Triptych: Sixteen Months” looks like a good example).
The backlit portrait was shot normally, no close-up filter required. I was figuring out the exposure for this shot and used my meter in incident reading mode. I had a brief doubt when taking the shot because the meter was suggesting only 1 stop different from what would have used for a non-backlit subject, but I went ahead and used the setting anyway. My doubts were renewed when I looked at the raw negative – reading a negative is a skill any serious film photographer should develop, and I’m pretty good at it now, having looked at literally thousands of negatives I’ve produced over the years, but I’m still, always, getting better at it. This was a case in point.
Then we got into playing with props, specifically, an ostrich egg and some leather masks I got at the Maryland Renaissance Festival.
I’ve been carrying around this ostrich egg shell for a while – I got it as a prop to use for another shot in my Tarot Cards: Re-imagined series. But getting the model who is supposed to use it to show up and sit for me has been a challenge, so it has been lingering, unloved, in my prop bag for some time. Well, it earned its keep with this shot. This is just a straight scan of the negative, so I’m still playing around with how to render the ostrich egg better – I want to preserve detail in the shell without it looking gray, or getting too blown out. Just as I got the shot composed, clouds kept drifting in and out of the sun’s path, changing the nature of the shot. I watched and noticed that the blown-out brilliant highlight caused by the direct sun on the shell’s smooth surface was greatly reduced by the cloud cover. By the time I got the meter reading for the cloud-diffused light, though, the clouds had moved on and it was back to full sun. So a waiting game ensued. I took this shot with partial, thin cloud diffusion because it was getting too hot for either of us to keep standing there waiting for a big cloud to drift back over again!
Here are the mask shots. Not much to say about these really – they’re fairly self-explanatory with the masks doing the talking. The masks were also bought for use in the Tarot Cards: Re-imagined series, and this is giving me new impetus to take up the series again and try to finish the Major Arcana.
I shot these all with Ilford PanF because it is such a slow film, and I wanted to try and shoot a lot of these wide open to get the blown-out, swirly background the lens is capable of producing. On the Rollei this can be a challenge with faster films because the fastest shutter speed is 1/500th of a second, which still isn’t fast enough in bright daylight to let me shoot the way I was looking to if I used even FP4+.
I don’t know if it was because I had been bottling up my human figure creative juices for so long, or the fact that I had a good model who understood how to pose and move, or having the right tool in my hands for the job, or what, but I got a crazy amount of successful images from this shoot- fully 24 out of 36 were ones I wanted to work with. That’s an amazing hit ratio, especially when you consider that of the 12 I didn’t pick, probably 1/2 were variations on a theme of ones I DID pick. So an 80% +/- hit rate? WOW.
* I was working in the Pentagon on 9/11, when the plane hit. Low-flying aircraft still make me jittery, but 12 years on, that’s about it. I have it pretty good all things considered.
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.
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.