One of the simple pleasures of my life over the years, is that I’ve had the opportunity to get to know and collaborate with the most amazing international group of fine-art figure models. The past week, I had the happy good fortune to host at my studio, two of my favorites. Rebecca, originally from
South North Carolina, now calls Brooklyn home. And Anoush, is originally from Australia New Zealand, but she admits that these days, home is wherever she’s working at the moment.
Note: Apparently my research staff needs to be fired. Wait… I’m my geographical research staff!
Rebecca and Anoush arrived last Tuesday, a few days into their East Coast to West Coast tour. And as is always the first order of business on a model visit, we stocked the studio with enough delicious food for a week of good eating. I always seem to eat better when models are over. And they’re amazing cooks! Also, because of Anoush’s Oz roots, of course there was the telltale jar of Vegemite, ever-present on the kitchen counter.
It’s wonderful to catch up with good friends and hear about their travels and adventures over many bottles of wine during a long visit. It seems in the last decade, I’ve been fortunate enough to expand my circle of artist friends and collaborators to be a truly worldwide group. Because of this, I’ve noticed that no matter what time of the day or night, even in the wee hours here in Chicago, I can always find someone online on the other side of the planet to bounce an idea off of or help sort something out. And they find me when they need something as well.
As I like to say, I love living in the future.
But back to Rebecca and Anoush. They had shoots scheduled with other photographers in and around Chicago during the week, so early in their visit, we sat down and plotted when we would get the chance to make our art!
First up was Rebecca and I moved one of my large chairs on to the set and pulled down a sheet of gray seamless behind her. Often, I find it interesting when models have something to climb on. Something that allows for interesting poses.
The only direction I gave her at the beginning was to be aware of the beautiful diagonal shadow that was coming in through the studio window. “See how that angle of light is cutting through?” Right away Rebecca found wonderful ways to be with the chair. Complimenting the light. She’s always so wonderful to work with.
It’s such a joy to work with models of this caliber who know how to work the light and the environment they find themselves in. Rebecca is always aware of every digit. Every pointed toe and fingertip. She is a tremendous collaborator.
Anoush and I had the chance to create twice during the week. We used the same big chair as with Rebecca, but I also wanted to try a few different things with her. First, I pushed a bed up to one of the studio windows with beautiful daylight streaming in behind her. At the opposite end of the studio I set up a large light, which would more or less serve as the sun in this set up. White sheets, which curtains and her beautiful porcelain skin. Her lovely red hair would be one of the few dark elements in the photograph. Just perfect.
And Anoush has such a lovely haunting face. Even in wide photographs with a great deal of space around her, your eyes just lock on to her expression.
For our next set, I used something I had been saving for the right moment of inspiration. A few years ago, someone in the building was throwing out an enormous thick piece of glass. Probably from a huge shower installation or something like that. I was taking the trash out one night and saw it leaning up against the building.
My photographer’s brain is always on the lookout for things that could be used as a photo set element. But, even as I returned with a large dolly cart to rescue the glass from certain destruction, I wasn’t exactly sure what I would do with it. But I knew I would come up with something. Eventually.
Eventually turned out to be during my second shoot with Anoush.
“This is going to be a grand experiment,” I cautioned her. “It may be a complete failure, but I have a feeling it could be amazing.”
She was game, of course, and watched me carefully wheel the glass to the set, managing to not crush myself as I gently eased it down over a piece of black fabric. Much heavier than it looked. I used the same gray paper sweep as the background.
The natural studio window light was the main light, but as with the shoot on the bed, I also placed a large light on the opposite studio wall as far away as I could. This created a nice medium/hard shadow on the gray background behind her. Just a nice accent.
Then, a few test photos, trying to determine the best angles for me to be, varying the amount of reflection depending on my angle in relation to her. Yes, this was going to work spectacularly. Anoush created poses that, on their own were beautiful, but with the added reflection, something more incredible.
One of my favorites from that set up is the first photograph at the top of this blog entry. Like Rebecca, Anoush knows exactly where every limb needs to be to create a wonderful composition. Her hair just so, adding another layer of balance in the frame.
Even the black fabric underneath the glass added another element, creating a feeling of water or some other liquid radiating out from her. Yes! The grand glass experiment was a proper success!
At the end of our time we decided to try some flying hair flips with her gorgeous long hair. Shooting like this is what I like to call, spray and pray. She kept flipping and I kept shooting, as fast as I could. Hair flips are like snowflakes. Never two exactly the same. Finally we had one we loved.
It was a joyful week with Rebecca and Anoush. Fun with good friends, making art and enjoying each others’ creativity.
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