I finally gave in and got an Instagram account (@anisotropicimages). But before you roll your eyes, hear me out. It’s actually been a great tool for developing my artistic vision. Continue reading
Category Archives: philosophy
I’m teaching a class this weekend entitled “Nudes in Nature”. I’m out of my comfort zone with this workshop, as I really don’t shoot nudes outside. It’s just not my thing, mostly because the subject risks becoming clichè or trite. How many images are there of: nude on a rock, nude in front of a bush, nude on the sand, etc? I’m guessing billions. But I’m a firm believer that struggle leads to growth, so I’m all in for the course.
So how am I going to get around this? Whenever I get stuck, I go at a problem from a different angle. Forget the nudity for now and let’s focus on some concepts. We’ll fill in subject and technique later. Bear with me through a decidedly non-linear creative process after the jump.
Experimentation with surfaces in the Mirage series of abstract art nudes.
The Mirage series has been about re-imagining the art nude. I love working with the human form- it can be so graceful, pliable and surprising. But nudes can just as easily be cliché. I didn’t want to create a literal image of the body; it’s just been so “done” in the internet era. Which is why I find the metal reflections so appealing. The images are traces, abstract suggestions of the human form, rather than literal translations. The treatment of the metal has been a major component of the Mirage series. The polishing, scratching and distressing of the sheet are an integral part of the process and the final image. It got me thinking about how I might bring more texture to the metal surface. Continue reading »
Working with Nude Models: Part 2
In part 1 we talked about keys to successfully creating a strong artistic image with nude models. In this post we’ll talk more about the nitty-gritty.
Personally I work with only a couple of models. That way we build a working relationship through photographing together over time. Those models understand my working techniques and my artistic aesthetic and as a result we are very efficient in creating images. With Mara, who you can see on the previous post, I almost have a psychic link. She understands my work on a very deep level and knows what I am looking for before I can say it. When you have that type of working relationship with a model, creating art becomes almost easy! But it takes some effort to get there.
As I mentioned previously, I had the pleasure of co-teaching a workshop on Lighting the Art Nude at the SOPHA in Manchester, NH earlier this year. One part of the workshop was a round table discussion with the day’s nude models to get their input on successful collaborations with photographers. Trust ranked number one on the list of things that make for a good shoot. If a model and photographer feel they can trust each other, then all kinds of good things happen artistically. A universal sentiment for maintaining that trust- there is no reason to touch a model- EVER! If you need a model to change their pose or adjust something, there are lots of ways to get that across without touching someone. As one model put it “I’m pretty smart and pretty creative. If you can describe or demonstrate it, I can do it. If you can’t describe it, point- as in, put your leg here”. To really work well with a nude model requires trust and touching someone without permission- even innocently- is a sure fire way to destroy it.
I usually ask a model to hold a pose while I work around them. That can sometimes mean that I am coming in very close to isolate a line or curve in the image. Even when working with models that I know very well I ask them to tell me if I am too close for comfort. This does two things. It establishes that I am concerned for their comfort and safety. It also frees me somewhat to concentrate on creating art- since the model has agreed to let me know if I am too close, I can think focus on composition and lighting. I also let the model know if I am about to move or change position. This is especially important with physically strenuous or vulnerable poses. I also let someone know if I have to move behind them where they cannot see. Clear communication about your actions and intents goes a long way toward establishing and maintaining trust.
Understand that everyone has boundaries. That applies to shoot concept obviously, but also to minor things. Sure, the model is about to be completely naked in front of you, but give them space while they change clothes. It’s about respecting moments of vulnerability. Likewise, there will be poses that accidentally “show too much” especially if your model has expressed boundaries such as not showing their genitals in photographs. Show respect and delete those. Understand that your relationship is a working one and don’t intrude on your model’s life outside of the photoshoot. It keeps your interactions professional and there is less chance of someone accidentally getting “outed” to folks who may not know about their nude work.
Speaking of getting outed. I always ask how, when and where it is OK for me to credit a model in images. Yeah, I have a model release but I also respect people’s personal lives. A lot of models use stage names, but even so they may not want some images linked to something like Facebook. By the same token I publish under a pseudonym to keep my professional and artistic lives separate. I always make sure models are clear how to credit me if they post images.
Last time I blogged about “why the nude” as a photographic subject. But for a while I have been interested in photographing the male nude in particular. Much of my reasoning is a simple desire to be to be different and unique. A quick trip through Tumblr brings up a LOT of photos of nude women, mostly created by straight men. Right or wrong, women have been the subject of the male gaze in art for millennia. While the male form was once a common topic for figure studies, you don’t see it as much these days in art photography. Or at least not as much as you see women. So my initial reason for choosing male subjects was a case of not following the herd. When everyone else zigs, I want to zag. But beyond that, the male body is interesting unique and different ways. Look at how the light falls across the musculature of David.
The contours are unique! Men’s arms, backs and legs bring a sinewy landscape that is very rare among women, and that means there are more “new” images and shapes to be found. Plus, men tend to be less self conscious about the changes in their physiques as they age. We all break down, wrinkle and sag with time and with these changes comes character. Yes, the body of a twenty year old is spectacular, but there is no experience, no wear, no stories of hard fought battles or loves lost. One of my favorite images is of Ross- something in the past left extensive scarring on his back.
But those scars speak to experience, sometimes hard won, and he carries them with dignity. That character is just something you won’t find in the body of a twenty year old!
The more I work with men, the more I find myself “seeing” the body in a different light. The challenge of photographing a subject that does not come naturally pushes me in ways and directions that benefit my work in so many ways. Photographing the male nude may not be terribly common, but I would urge other photographers to explore it. You might just expand your artistic vision as well as your portfolio!
I’ve been asked “why the nude?” as a photographic subject. Nudity can be such a polarizing subject, bringing questions of objectification and sexuality to play. Then there is the “hasn’t it been done to death?” question. I mean, people have made nude photographs since the beginning of photography! Well maybe, if all you are interested in is an image of someone sans clothing, that might be the case. But to me the nude is something much more than just a person’s naked body. (And naked is not the same as nude, at least as far as art is concerned) It’s been said that in creating, you should remove all that is unnecessary, until all that is left is necessary. In my images, the body serves as an allegory for self image. It speaks to how we see ourselves on the most basic and direct of levels. I have found that adding wardrobe often distracts from that objective. The image then becomes about the clothing and not the idea.
Plus, the nude IS something that inspires discussion and that is something I want in my artwork. If my work provokes a reaction, so much the better! I would much prefer viewers to talk and think about my art, even if they don’t like it, than to have my work fall into the pile of similarity that is the internet. Finally, for as many photographs as have been made of the human body, we exist in an endless variety of shapes, sizes and ages. And our bodies change daily, providing new and exciting canvases to be explored. The multitude of images waiting to be created will not be exhausted any time soon. You just have to approach even the most familiar of subjects with fresh vision.
Decisions, decisions. I’ve been putting prints together for the upcoming New England Photo Review and this has made me take long hard look at what images to print in color vs monochrome. Generally I follow the rule that images with strong graphic elements work well in monochrome. I’ve heard it said that “color is the enemy of shape” meaning that strong forms often work best in monochrome and multiple colors can distract from strong graphic shapes. This image of ChloeAnn’s back is a great case in point.
The flow of her body creates a curving form that is recapitulated in the blurry reflection. It works beautifully in black and white and that is how I have it on the website. It also prints magnificently! This is a version I could see on the wall.
But when I began putting my portfolio together, the image seems to fit best within a sequence of color prints. The result was, in a word, odd. The black and white version looked out of place. So I printed a version in color.
It is still a strong image and now the flow of the port works better, but I’m torn between that and the monochrome version which works so well. Would a reviewer see the same disconnect? And would it matter to them? This may just be a case where I need to look at the portfolio sequence longer, or reconsider the arrangement of images. For now I have the color and the monochrome versions up on a sorting board so I can swap them back and forth in the portfolio sequence.
Sometimes I need to let things, ideas or images simmer. Such as when I like an image, but I’m not sure if I love it. Some images are easy. Some you know are “it” the moment the shutter snaps. Others have to digest, simmer or just sit for awhile.
These are those sort of images. I like all of them and I like how the red in the background turned out. But I’m not sure how they fit into the current mirror series. They fit visually into the series, but I am questioning whether they add to it. But I do like the multi-faceted (pun intended) aspect. To me, it visualizes mental anguish or complex decision making- times when the mind moves rapidly from one subject to another. I’ll have to let these simmer mentally for a few days. I’ll print them and keep them on my desk and in the course of a week or so I’ll know if they belong in the series. Of course, maybe this is the start of a new series…
A friend of mine refers to her first child as a “happy accident”- the sort of event that you were not planning, but which works out wonderfully in the end. The happy accident plays a big part in my artistic process as well (and no, I’m not going to continue the metaphor!).
Normally, I shoot very slowly. I mean, maybe a frame per minute. I use manual lenses and take my time finding the right image in the viewfinder. On this day I had just set up a sheet of reflective mylar to use as a mirror when the heat came on in the studio. The moving air was causing the mylar to move and as a result I was shooting faster than usual to capture fleeting images. I was joking with the model about shooting like a fashion photographer. I switched the camera to high speed drive- “look at me! I’m a high falutin fashun shooter!”– in a moment of screwing around. We made fun of a few photographers who shoot that way, laughed and then moved on. I didn’t look at the images produced with the burst. But I had also accidentally shifted the camera to aperture priority from manual. Since I shoot with strobes the camera saw too little light and slowed the shutter speed way down. That combined with the rippling surface of the mirror resulted in the image at below.
When I first looked at the image in Lightroom, I almost deleted it. It wasn’t what I had originally planned and the color balance was all wonky. But something about the image stuck. I went back, adjusted the white balance and then saw it. To me, the image has an impressionist, almost watercolor feel to it. It captured the ephemeral, fleeting nature of images remembered which is something I have been exploring with this series. In many ways, I had “accidentally” gotten exactly what I was searching for. As a result of this image, I am exploring techniques using longer shutter speeds to recreate the soft, blurred image here. The happy accident of hitting the wrong switch helped me find both a great image, but also a new avenue for exploration!
Copyright Lucas James, aka Anisotropic Images. All rights reserved. firstname.lastname@example.org