Normally, I'd sit on this one a while before "issuing" it, but I'm rather psyched about the turnaround time. You know I'm not known for fast.
Start to finish in less than twelve hours, and there was a long break in the middle. About an hour to prep, two hours to develop, and then three or four to chase pesky details (including a last minute panic attack at a problem I hadn't spotted). Haven't ever turned around anything so fast (except From This Day Forward, which was only two or three).
Inspiration struck, I suppose. (Even the title bubbled up quickly.) Been trying not to work on model shots lately, but this one grabbed me and ran away with itself.
Lan Ahn, photographed June 2008 in al-Raka, with the 10D and 50mm f1.4 lens, 1/15th at f/2.8 and ISO 100. 24" print.
As always, please take care to imagine the size of it. This work isn't done for your screen, it's made for our walls.
Some tangential thoughts (navel-gazing?) about my model work behind the fold.
Have been forcing myself away from model work for a couple of years now, despite all the ways it's "right for me." Simply put, "photographic credibility" insists that I prove myself in different ways. And also: proving my techniques requires testing on a wider variety of images. (Think I'm gonna work on a cloud/sunset shot in a few minutes, for example.)
It's been a long road to learn to find the necessary inspiration in "lifeless" scenes, but seem to have finally rounded the corner last year. Have drafted about a dozen images that will come through this spring (or else I wouldn't have started this whole blog/website project as I have), and only a couple of them with animals (because I've been trying to "rule them out" too). Mostly, trying to find and experience that magical vertigo with no face or pose at all to make it easy. (Though I have a tendency to see "hallucinogenic faces" fairly often.)
Most of all, though, and especially sensitive to this new image above, I got a really good objective criticism a couple of years ago from a new mySpace acquaintance. This new viewer took a broad look and said, "Hmm, what's the big deal? I just see a lot of pensive girls." And at such a simple blush as that, I realized I've overdone images like those above. Just because those are the ones that inspire me is no excuse to settle for them.
I think this view will really inform my model photography this summer when back in the USA. (It certainly informed Your New Highness, both the shooting scheme and the result.) Not for never having shot "dynamic" before, but that I obviously need to do a lot more of it. (Perhaps more smiles too, though they seem to be a less nuanced expression and therefore less inspirational.)
Also got another valid crit from a really good friend of mine, who actually doesn't care for my model work at all. He likened the pretty girls to rhyme in poetry, and said, "Well, it can be a good thing, but there's so much more to poetry than that." And I actually derive two implications from either side of responding to that.
On one hand, let's accept as a premise that he's right, and I need to prove that I don't need "rhyme" to do impressive work that's up to all my other standards. Okay, good, on the path already.
But on the other hand, it's always been the intention to do fine art photography from models far beyond the norms. (Allow me a snob moment: I look at so much model photography and don't feel anything. I think those guys are the ones relying on "rhyme" too much. One reason to do some occasional portrait/portfolio work is to illustrate the difference within my own style.) So exactly by backing away from "what comes easily" (i.e., the pensive moments), should redouble my efforts to keep exceeding the norms for the medium.
That's the plan, anyway. Primarily non-model work for this spring (with a few dynamic surprises?), and then an attempt to fire up my model photography with new life this summer. Ultimately, I'll be happy to be remembered as a model photographer, but the deeper goal is to keep pushing myself on every front in every way.
Ever since the beginning, have never felt it right to settle for the easy way out.
Why would one think I virtually quit art altogether for almost three years? It would have been easy to keep my head down and keep plugging away. (Not like there aren't hundreds more inspiring model shots in my archives.) But needed to spend some time breathing fresh air, and feeling it within myself.
To conclude back on point though, it just goes to show how an image like the new one above came so naturally to me. Wasn't easy - some of the detail corrections were miserably difficult (and trust me, the flyaway hairs that remain were chosen to remain) - but it came easily. Nice to know I've still got that in me too.
And, of course, it was fun to doll it up for Lan Anh herself. The girl herself is always my most important audience for those works. She made some comments after Highness like "I feel like a movie star" or "I look at the picture and feel like it's a different person," and that's really how I want any of "my girls" to feel, like they're starring in something.
I hope that quality is radiant in my work, and radiantly different from what normally qualifies as "model photography."
I do think of these images much like pop songs, but I hope the quality of rhyme is a sublime cut above what most are used to.
On the other hand, the titles are always meant to be very multi-dimensional, and the title of this one was certainly no accident. ;-)