In The Beginning...

Way, way back in March of 2014 I was foolin' around with Mary. Mostly to make some various promotional shots for the studio and a workshop I would be hosting in the spring. As usual when working with Mary one thing turns into another. This time she had this white suit I wanted to play with a little. The other props just happened to be set up for another side gig I was doing at the time and made a few shots for earlier that day.

I am a sucker for white on white looks with a bit of skin tone in there. So we made some of those. With various attitudes and a few tweaks to micro-ratios as just about everything is in the highlights, even the shadows are highlights. For whatever reason I've been asked to make the picture below about three dozen times since then. Maybe not that one but one of the 10 or 12 variations.

Since we had the props sitting right there to the left, why not play with them some more before moving on to some other stuff?

Take a close look at body language, expression, and gesture in the above images. A sample from a bunch we made in the space of about a half hour. Notice anything? More on that in a moment.

Photo-tech Aside


All of the above images have a preset slapped on them at import. I happened to use Aperture 3 for these about ten minutes ago as they weren't handy in the Aperture library I had open for the project. Yes Aperture 3 still runs on El Capitain and it's still great. Does it do all the stuff whatever the other RAW processors the cool kids use? Probably not if we're talking about things I consider peripheral like minor image manipulation kinds of things.

It's still far and away the best thing for sorting, sifting, comparing, juxtapositioning, and assembling groups of images together for large projects. It feels like home. Not just because I know it but it feels a lot like having a bunch of proof-prints and a few grease pencils.

The tool gets out of the way and lets me see photos the way I want to see them and mark them up any way I need to any time. Everything else feels so hemmed in and never feels as fluid and natural.

Sort of like the screen shot of Jessica in the Fuji XT-1 post where that Aperture 3 view has a preset slapped on it that gives a tonal response about as close as I can get to XP-2 with the living crap exposed out of it and scanned with your garden variety Noritsu processor.

In any case I am not one that likes to reinvent certain wheels if they don't have much to do with the matter at hand. Take image processing and color. For personal work I'm strictly about the subject and very little about dillying about with endless treatments or polishing individual shots. I really don't even need endless looks.

I was quite happy with how a few different films looked that I used a lot. These look a lot like Fuji 400H with overexposed by a wide margin. It's not magic to get there. I included a screen shot of the meat of what that looks like. A response curve that redistributes how much contrast is in the mids and highlights for the most part. The color tweaks are 80% saturation management so that I can get the midtone contrast without the saturation going nuclear. Thee ohter color tweaks are minor hue shifts to how that particular film handled reds/oranges, greens/blues, and to make the purples/pinks less cartoonish even if not accurate.

What does all this have to do with personal projects, specifically this one? One of the things I found that was lost with digital (for me and I think a lot of others) was a few stakes in the ground. Shooting large format and individual sheets of film begged for individual treatment of each and every image. On the other hand shooting small cameras with 35mm film was more of a one-size fits all approach. Every frame was the same in terms of color, contrast, treatment, look. I think that's what attracted me to using that format for personal work.

Simplicity, a few stakes in the ground for projects that took weeks, months, or years to work on and explore. It was more about what was in front of the camera. The subject and the story rather than what goes on afterwards -- the treatment, processing, washing, ironing and drying.

Relearning What You Already Know

It was this playing around with Mary interspersed with making those promo shots where the first spark of the Black/White project happened.

This image wasn't even supposed to be a real picture. Mary plopped herself down on that chair while I made an exposure test or two. This was the first one. Notice anything? How about in the next picture?

Or maybe this next one? I didn't do this. The circumstance, wardrobe, props, and Mary's mood did. The shifts you see both in the color pictures above and those here are driven by all the tiny little variables. Of course some of it has to do with when I decide to press the button but as I already knew absolutely everything makes a difference when you are photographing people. I've known this for decades. A different pair of shoes can make a night/day difference in a headshot even though you can't see them.

Sixty seconds later we get this.

It was playing around in between making photographs I intended to make where the notion of a project based entirely on body language, circumstance, and wardrobe choices started. It took me a year to get around to exploring how to approach that idea as I started to experiment with exactly how to approach that in a long term project late this spring.

No these were not shot with the Fuji X-System. They were made with a Nikon Df and a D600 with 28/mm and 50/mm lenses.