“Don’t forget to take Jo her shirt!,” my wife would tell me every time Jo and I worked together. Jo had left the green, sheer, I guess “shirt?”, during one of our early shoots and it lived in the closet for about 18 months.
Every time I’d shoot Jo my wife would tell me the same thing and every time I’d forget. When it came to scheduling our latest session I was determined to not forget, going so far as to set a reminder on my phone.
Here’s how the session started.
“Hey, look! I finally remembered your shirt!”
“I don’t remember owning that shirt.”
Ok, maybe you had to be there. The point is that we recovered from our bout of sartorial awkwardness and incorporated it into our session, with the result being the photo above. We also incorporated her glasses for the first time, which are adorable on her.
I am not going to lie: this capture was an instant-fav. We hadn’t even gotten started. Lilith, straight from the shower, was indulging in her traditional ritual of applying shea butter and I was goofing with the focus settings on my camera. This candid was one of the results.
I grew up in the wet darkroom era, shooting with hand-me-down cameras, crap lenses, fast-and-grainy film (hey, Kodak Tri-X), and printing on the most affordable paper I could buy. When I first dipped my toe into digital on a serious level I instantly became hooked on both the ability to really work in color and having sharp, detailed images. I was done with grain, done with muted images, done with black and white.
And I still largely am. Here are three images that represent how I normally process images.
This is my Platonic Ideal image. White balance is very much on the cold side. I shot it at ISO 160 so it is clean and free of digital noise. I used a one-light setup so the image has a lot of contrast. It is shot in a minimalist setting to highlight the subject.
Some would say it lacks artistry. I say get bent. I spent years not being able to financially afford to create works in color and now that I can I’m not going to toss a bunch of filters and effects on them and make it look like I’m back in the wet darkroom using shit equipment. I’m a photographer, not a digital artist. I am Richard Avedon, But With Talent.
Lately, though…my resolve has slipped. I may have spent all of my formative years tethered to black and white imagery against my will, but at some point Stockholm Syndrome catches hold.
This is my First Love image. Still very clean (fuck off, Tri-X), still very contrasty, but yes, I’m back to the monochrome world. In fact, over the last three years I’ve adopted the practice of shooting with my camera in monochrome so that I can see exactly how my light is falling. In the last year I’ve gone back to creating images with the intent of having a black and white final print. Spare me the romanticism of how black and white is a more “pure” art form, but I will totally cop to the belief that shooting with a monochrome end product in mind changes the way you see things.
Plus, it’s classy as fuck.
This is my Where Did I Go Wrong? image. Ok, I caved. I went warmer than normal. It is a bit noisier (but just a bit). I’ve gone the matte route. I haven’t added a ton of filters, but I’m definitely playing with a more artsy look.
And I really dig it. Not love, or at least not True Love, but sooooo, so close. I am enjoying the creativity and getting out of my comfort zone. I’m enjoying how it can take a “meh” image and breathe new life into it. There is just a part of me that says that I’m straying from photography and into the realm of digital artistry.
Most of the images you’ll see here are going to be either Platonic Ideal or First Love, but I have gone down a deep matte processing rabbit hole lately and in the short term you might see more of those here. I assure you it is temporary and I’ll be back to stale and sterile in no time.