Monday, September 12, 2016
There is an interesting story behind this image, as it almost did not happen. For a good majority of my shoots, I have always done the make-up myself— this dates back to when I first began photographing people. I made use of a very retro aesthetic from the very beginning since I wanted to emulate early masters and early Hollywood glamor photography. I started doing this in the early 1990's, which for all intents was still really the 1980's. This was not exactly a good time to find people with hair and make-up that looked like the time periods I wanted to represent in an authentic way. So I had to scrub everybody's faces clean, do their make-up and hair as well as find clothes for them. Yeah, no easy task. I like doing it, though, and it tends to relax women before a shoot. It has had another added benefit in that my early work (and most of it since) does not look badly dated now. Things got much easier later on when Swing and Rockabilly music came back in vogue (and to a certain extent has remained so). Suddenly women were showing up at my studio with these wonderful dead-on looks, all ready to go. It felt like 90% of my work was now cut out for me. It was not like I had not paid my dues, though. When women don't have their own cosmetics, I often tend to go for a fresh-scrubbed natural look nowadays. Anyway, to make a long story short (too late?), I've since started to get a little more experimental with maquillage when I do it myself now. For this session, I used white and black eyeliner on the top of the lids, along with some white mascara, in order to try something a bit weird and futuristic. I have to say that both she and I thought it looked kind of clownish, and she wanted to wipe it off and try something of her own. I convinced her to just shoot it for a few minutes first since I spent a while doing it. I'm glad that I did because it turned out to look a lot more elegant and distinctive in the shot than it did in real life. It was also by far the best thing we shot that day. It is one of my favorite images, and it even looks better in color— but I don't like to show color work here. I'm always amused at how often people are reluctant to trust me at first, but then turn out to absolutely love the results of something that they were initially rather wary of trying...
Sunday, September 11, 2016
This is from a series that kind of look like those old-timey boardwalk photographs— except that they more resemble actual vintage images, rather than being campy or hokey. I find it interesting there is such a fine line between being genuine versus silly. I like the challenge of taking that extra effort to make it work. By the way, I scraped this scene together on a tight budget— the rug was $20 from IKEA, backdrops are my usual from fabric row, and the rest came as bits and pieces from Linens n' Things. It all fits into a trunk, and it takes me about 15 minutes to set it up!
Saturday, September 10, 2016
A rather old film shot from 1994. I was just finishing up with my Pictorialism phase, and starting to do some very genuine portraiture that looked like it came from about the same era. Pictorialism was the name given to an international style and aesthetic movement that dominated photography during the later 19th and early 20th centuries. I've never stopped doing this kind of portraiture, but this is perhaps my first successful one, and still an all time favorite that I tend to rate all others against. It's kind of like Steve McCurry's Afghan Girl from National Geographic— a great early image that I'm always unsuccessfully trying to top.
Friday, September 9, 2016
I've done a lot of maternity portraits over the years— but they are most often paid shoots where I tend to be more concerned with making my subject relaxed & untroubled above anything else. Twinky is someone that I had shot with before, however, and she is very comfortable in front of the camera. I think she lent a slight eroticism to all of the pregnancy pics we did together. I would not have wanted it to be more than a slight eroticism, though, because that would probably be distasteful. I think that this is just right— not too much. By the way, she was 38 and pregnant with her 5th child at this shoot. Crazy!
Thursday, September 8, 2016
Wednesday, September 7, 2016
These two images rank among my favorite vintage inspired pics. This is despite the fact that they both kind of violate my own rules for creating a time-honored looking photograph. My steadfast rule is that the details have to be dead on accurate to whatever period I’m trying to replicate, without any deviation. These don’t really make that cut. I doubt that I had a real plan for any particular time period for these. I was just winging it, which is unlike me. Baby doll dresses originated in the early 1940’s, although they had revivals in the early 70’s and late 90’s. She is wearing a baby doll dress, but the make-up is very 60’s. The hair is hard to pinpoint. The overall feel is hard to identify. It all makes for a slightly bizarre combo, but I guess it works. Maybe not? The other image has a 40’s Hollywood glamour to it, but she definitely looks like a cherub from a Raphael painting. Which is weird, because she’s a full-grown woman— not a young boy. The dress strap looks sort of contemporary. My point is that I still definitely like these images— even though they are failures by my usual parameters. Normally, I would reject them completely (either as I’m shooting, or later in editing). But somehow they work— at least for me.
Tuesday, September 6, 2016
Monday, September 5, 2016
Photography has been stuck being about subject-matter for a long time now. It seems that if it does not represent something then people tend to dismiss it. Painting, however, has not been purely about subject-matter for over a century; it is about paint, surface, color, illusion, many things— but more often not about being pictorial. Yes, this is a little bit of a blanket statement— and, of course, there have been attempts. But seriously, how much abstract photography have you seen versus representational? Even if you live under a rock, you’ve seen many nonrepresentational paintings and sculpture. This image is from a series that I’ve been working on for about ten years. I posted a couple of them here occasionally, but, honestly, I try not to. I think that they are quite original (at least I have not seen anything like them myself, but who knows?), so I’m afraid that it will be copied and imitated. So what do I do? I post my favorite one, of course. I have to say that this one would probably be pretty tough to imitate, as I don’t know if I could replicate it myself. It almost made me want to quit the series at this since I might spend years trying to top it with nothing better to show for. BTW, I think that it works in any orientation (I've actually hung four different versions in a gallery show before), so I'm posting a horizontal and a vertical version here.
Sunday, September 4, 2016
Pin-up style took on quite a few different forms, even though it’s a formula that is actually very narrow and rather easily defined. My favorite style would be Irving Klaw photographing Bettie Page in bondage— which is fun but most definitely fetish & BDSM oriented. It's all pretty much tame compared to today's fare, though. I based this shoot, however, on the friendlier pulp girlie magazines that were published in the 40’s & 50’s and sold from under the counter. They were a bit more toned down compared to the Irving Klaw stuff...
Saturday, September 3, 2016
To most people, vintage photos are often interesting simply because they're old. There's an other-worldliness to relics of past eras. It's exotic. It's like how a foreign accent makes someone more alluring and attractive. It’s that mystical feeling you get looking at an old castle or cathedral. It's not a part of your general everyday experience and therefore it's enchanting. Likewise, we tend to associate authenticity with the style of a bygone photo because they have stood the test of time. They describe a world past— and, as such, they have earned a sense of importance. In short, this probably sums up why I enjoy making my own images look like they are actually vintage. The key is that they have to definitely look genuinely classic in every way, down to every detail— otherwise, the illusion is broken...
Thursday, September 1, 2016
One of my all-time favorite photography books (and biggest guilty pleasure) is Revenge by Ellen Von Unwerth. It's a little (6 x 8 inch) limited edition book, bound in black linen. I don't like to judge books by their cover- but just looking at this cover, you know that it's going to be a treat inside. I've actually had people see the book among others at my photo studio and say "Oh, what's that?!". While there is a general narrative arc (taken as "excerpts" from the diaries of the nubile young heroines), Von Unwerth primarily uses stylized black and white photography (think Helmut Newton meets Man Ray) to tell the story of how the Baroness disciplines her newly orphaned nieces. It is not a very original story, but Revenge is really not about the story. What little narrative there is, is executed with a tongue-in-cheek flair that sets the saucy tone of the book. And the eroticism in Revenge really does have flair. The models are gorgeous, the clothes (when there are clothes) are gorgeous, the set (a glorious mansion and its extensive grounds) is gorgeous— all in the style of the lovely pornography of early 20th century Europe. The sadomasochistic elements tend less towards real pain and suffering and more towards the discomforts of dominance and submission in a campy, Paris Vogue sort of way. You can't help but laugh, but you also can't put it down— it's just too damn fucking pretty. Though I find the pleasure of reading it to be more aesthetic than erotic, I certainly can't deny that it's definitely a pleasure all the same. Revenge is a sexy little volume, all the more so because it doesn't take it so too terribly seriously. If a book could wink, this one would ;)