“Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I’m not sure about the former.” 
Dave Rudin quoting Albert Einstein to me this past week.

Lissa…she may have been the first grandmother
 I ever worked with

This post could actually be titled “Observations of Self, Part II”, now that I see what I’ve written. I had something else in mind to write about, but this came up instead. A model, that I hadn’t shot in a while, and I were talking recently and she suggested that I’m an entirely different photographer. Though miles and miles separate us now, she feels she’d like to shoot with me again just to experience this difference first hand. I hadn’t worked with her since I my film days and she brought up some of our conversations that I certainly didn’t remember, but can’t deny because I knew my line of thought back then. She asked why I had changed so much and said that it bordered on the radical. I countered with a premise suggesting that the change is more due to an evolutionary trend in my work, but she still disagreed. I guess I can see her point, as she began to elegantly make her case.

Point 1: I shoot digital instead of film now and there is much more “added” to my photos than just the shot as is.

This is indeed a big change for a photog. The to different mediums are opposite in many ways. One is analog and the other is not. You shoot entirely different in digital when you expose for light. In film, more info was in the shadows whereas digital the majority of the greater info is towards the right side of the histogram. Well, I don’t need to give you a lecture on the differences of digital vs. film. For me the biggest change was in my post work, the editing. I went from an intimate knowledge of film processing back to square one with having to learn new edit techniques using Photoshop. At some point, I guess, I had expressed my distaste for digital work, mainly because of my love for the darkroom. At this point in time, I am beginning to get into my groove with darkroom manipulations, following some of the examples of Jerry Ulesmann, but also some of my own original ideas, playing with textures, double exposures, and sandwiched negatives. I was using fabrics, translucent gels, chemical tones, paint, and other materials to vary  up some of my designs. Doing this via a computer just seemed like cheating and took away the craftsmanship. I argued that if Michaelangelo had used computers to design and carve out his statue of David, he’d be considered a renowned engineer, not an artist.

This is a darkroom manipulation, done with a distressed fabric
overlay fitted in the enlarger and chemical toning. Model, Elizabeth

I guess, I’ve seen the light now and have begun to pick up where I left off from the darkroom. Now I use layers and masks to do the same thing in Photoshop with the help of a few other key plug-ins. There is still a measure of craftsmanship that is lost, I think, because I am not doing this with my hands anymore, but then again, there’s so much more that I am doing that I couldn’t do before. I love using layers and textured backgrounds. I particularly have a penchant for distressed papers or parchments that I can overlay an image on, add another texture at varying opacities, and then border it with a vignette or something. I’m limited only by my ability to imagine and envision a project. I can always find a way to create it, even if it takes me all day. I’ve worked for more than 12 hours straight on a particular effect that just wasn’t coming out right which is the same as I’d do in a darkroom, only I’d be going through a box of paper and chemicals in the process. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to refresh exhausted developers and fixers on a single image just for a desired effect.

Point 2: I’ve got models in much more bold poses than I ever did before.

A bold Lissa

This is definitely another true point. This model mentioned how, at the time of our sessions, I’d strongly reconsider working with a model if she was clean-shaven, meaning no pubic hair whatsoever. Now, I have some women showing all their pride and glory. The first part of that statement is not totally accurate. I did sort of start out that way, but quickly realized that since many models were shaved clean, I could  accept it or quit it. I shot many shaved models with film. I can’t deny the latter part of her point. Rarely did I do a shot that was too bold in the beginning. I might be a grown man, but hey…my Mama still sees this stuff! I’m in my forties now, and I still got a call at 2am when she discovered one of my shots. This was just earlier this year! No, my goal isn’t to start doing porn, but in many of my sessions, I take what the model gives me. I still place the model and direct her as needed, but I like to let her do her thing. Some are simply more bold than others and they may pose more explicitly than someone else who is a little more reserved. Samantha immediately comes to mind. We did recent work in which she doesn’t mind everything being out there, but you don’t see her doing anything  suggestive.

More conservative, Melanie

A model once told me quite censoring myself and shoot the nude and quit omitting parts of the nude. Its all or nothing. Well, I am sure there are varying opinions of that notion. Many well respected models shoot nudes and never give you a hint of what lies beneath. Others with just as equal respect have no problem with it. I got a comment from one woman who thought showing a woman’s secret was disgusting. Other women applauded me. At the very least, I don’t mind doing shots like this if I can take the element of sex out of it. Impossible, you say? Maybe…but many see sex in a shot of bare breasts. It’s all in the way you present it. I’d rather one see the art behind it, more so than experience a need for a release. If anything, I’m illustrating the model’s expression of her saying, “This is me…deal with it.” I don’t want to deliver an image by which the model is trying to seduce you. With that said, I do want to sometime present an erotic series at some point, but again, heavy on the art, light on the sexual emphasis. I shoot life. Sex is a part of life…an essential part, actually, but as of yet, I don’t think I have the ability just yet to illustrate sex in art without it becoming pornographic. So despite some of the more explicit poses I shoot, I still draw a line.

Point 3: My Model Choices

Model, Lissa

Now this is one point, I know I can disagree with. The model’s initial suggestion was that I only shot girls that were glamorous, but in a non-glamor fashion. What she meant was that I shot women who were perfect 10s only I didn’t add in the make-up, hair, and other adornments. Now she sees the older women and women of various sizes. Well, I did shoot petite and well-developed women but I never restricted myself to women like that. I think she missed the large woman with the tattoos that I worked with and she didn’t know about the couple in their 50s that I shot on their back wood estate as a commission. She likes the recent work I’ve done with Joanie, but I had to correct her in that one of my first pieces that I considered great was of another woman similar to Joanie. (I only have mounted prints of that model with no scans). She saw that I now have Black women in my portfolio…few, but still some. Again, I did shoot one Black woman early on in my film days. Shooting the Sistas ain’t easy. Its HARD to get a black woman to pose nude. I thought being a Black photog, it would be a cinch! Ahh, no… That’s a hard sell. Well, its at least been so with me. Most attribute it to upbringing, but I am sure there are other reasons why as well, but this blog post is already getting lengthy.

Model, Lissa

I like intriguing women of all various shapes and sizes. I won’t say I can shoot anybody, but my range is pretty wide. I weigh my selection of models by what’s on the inside of them just as well as what they look like on the outside, if not more so. Attitude goes a long way. In my art, my concentration is on form and shape and what I might be able to do with it using light and shadow, as well as how it interacts or balances with the surrounding area. I can get shapes out of most any model by positioning them, using angles, and in how they are lit. I actually shy away from most glamor shots. Its not my thing. As natural as possible is the way I like to shoot. Exceptions about here and there, but that’s primarily it. I gravitate toward the imperfections. Scars, tats…I can work with that. Some of my first models had perfect bodies, but its not anything I needed and I think that’s a contributing factor of why potential models are more comfortable with me. They can see themselves in my work more so than they can a photog who’s port is filled with glamor and fashion.

So I know I’ve changed and I’ve blogged on this before. I still see it as more of an evolution than becoming a totally different photographer. This model whom you’ve probably never seen before, is someone I’d love another crack at. You haven’t seen her because I have a standing agreement that no images can be on the web. It was one of my first agreements like that, before I had a blog, website, or any online profiles. I can exhibit her prints in a contest or gallery, but the web is a no-go. I no longer make those agreements! Also, I thought I’d throw in another “How It Should Have Ended” short clip. This one parodies, “Inception“.