If anyone bothers to look at the front page of this project specific micro-site you've been greeted with very large slice of a photograph [Wendy] and I made early on in my experiments for the project. Why that image on the front page?
I've asked myself that question a couple of times over the last couple of weeks. I think I've asked myself that question for a few reasons, all of them fairly silly. The first; That's been up on the site since day one, I should probably change them out. The second; Hmmm, maybe I should put something up that has a wider appeal to a wider audience (as if this kooky project isn't niche). The third; I've been working on that Fragments side project lately maybe I should put one of my fav's up for that, they're shot horizontal and have crazy good IQ rather than a horizontal crop of a vertical that's shot semi-blurry on purpose, at a casual glance people will think I have no idea what I'm doing. And the fourth which is very related to the first; Wendy's not a 20-something.
Why That Photograph
Before I put any thought into that question my answer would have been "just random, happened to be right in front of me when I plopped the site up one day". That kind of answer is almost always not true, really it isn't. No matter how subtle or how subconscious there's always a motivation when choice is involved. It's not like that image fell out of the sky and landed there right?
Upon reflection there are a ton of reasons. All of them "good reasons" and the kind of thing that one way or another influence editorial choices on any type of photographic endeavor. Sure leaving time for things to settle a bit allows more objective choices but at the end of it nothing's really that objective there's just a rejiggering of subjective priorities.
- Geeking out there's elements of that shot that are "impossible". Take a look at the crop closely. See how sharp most of the hand and handle are? Now checkout the motion blur going on at the end and the lanyard. I LOVE THAT and was amazed at how good I've become at that kind of thing with practice. I was also enamored that I could do it with a mirrorless/evf camera like the XT-1.
- It was crazy hard to get to this point with Wendy of the pictures "working". Some collaborations are easier than others in terms of getting the person in front of the camera loose and expressive. This time it was on the harder end of the spectrum. This was one of the first few frames where it went from "OMG, this is not ever going to work" to "OMG, there's going to be some cool stuff made". Ever feel that panic when things just are not flowing at all? Then it changes?
- Right after this picture I made one that really captures the feel I was going for in every experiment in this context. The first one that holistically was what I was after (see below).
- I rarely, no axe that. I almost never get to work with women remotely close to my own age on anything. I love working with women on just about any project that's somewhere in the neighborhood and Wendy is actually got a few years on my age.
All of those are perfectly fine reasons for liking one picture or another. We all fall into a trap of sorts where we put a lot of value on internal things like the circumstances and our own experiences in making the photograph. Nothing wrong with that but how hard or how wonderful the experience was has nothing to do with if it works. In many cases time and distance can allow you a better perspective on the latter.
That "Thing" That Worked
I've spent a very long time photographing people in some sort of motion or another. Up until I used the XT-1 I considered EVF's to be completely useless or at least extremely unreliable for timing of that moment I wanted to get. They would in variably throw my timing off. I think that was due to variations in viewfinder and shutter lag. I already knew the XT-1 could "work for me". I was at a point where I had experimented and practiced timing on this particular context for the black side of the project where I was not just practicing but now had room to experiment and push things even more.
Perfect. Well I guess that depends on what one is trying to do right? Perfectly fine. Everything is sharp that should be sharp with a bit of motion blur here and there and I grabbed the arc of the whip exactly where I wanted it compositionally. Hmmm, let's push it farther.
Slowed the shutter down some more and panned with the motion of Wendy's arm just a bit. And boom, now that's what I was looking for in terms of overall feel. Took me three or four tries but it worked. The timing is perfect, the pan motion blurred wendy except for the arc of the whip.
With a bit of distance I can still say I absolutely love that second version. It's a model of the overall feel I want for the black side of this project. Sure wardrobe will be way different, context will be different but this is how I want it to feel.
I pushed myself out of a safe zone technically working with Wendy which was a bit strange. My typical M.O. when working with someone for the first time, especially if it doesn't just flow from the first frame is to fallback to very safe pictures that I know will "work". Work meaning from a generic everyone involved won't be surprised with epic failures. I fallback to a mode of pleasing someone even if not pleasing myself.
The photo at the top of this post is a BTS grab-shot while Wendy was taking a break immediately after we made the whip shots. It was mid summer and crazy hot and I had her wrapped in a bunch of plastic while performing a lot of strenuous physical activity. It took some provocation but she put everything she had into it and then that's when things started to flow. The difference in body language and feel even of this BTS snapshot is night and day from the first few frames starting out that day. This carry over is what I'm looking for when making images for the rest of the main black/white project.
Wendy enjoyed the stuff we made and had a lot of fun in the process. I didn't end up discussing the "why" with her but for those I did talk to so far it's one way or another related to showing a side of themselves they don't get to show — ever. The entire point of the project in the first place. I consider that progress even if by inches.
All photos made with the Fuji XT-1 and 14mm XF lens. Post processing via LR CC with VSCO FILM06 HP5+2 applied on import.