Archive for July 2010

Reflection, 1995

Things are rolling along here in Figures of GraceLand pretty much as before, where preparing my new website for launch by the middle of next month is the top priority.

Today’s photo is one of those that I recently scanned from the negative during the process. It’s unusual for me in that it’s not a travel image and it’s not a nude, either. It was made, in reality, at a nude workshop way back in 1995, but I chose to do it not as a nude.

My title for the work, as you can see, is “Reflection.” The obvious reason is that the photo was made in a mirror – you can see more than one reflection of the model , in fact – but I’ve always thought that she had a rather reflective look on her face.

The blurry thing on the left, I’m pretty sure, is a portrait bust like the one of Beethoven reflected on the right, though photographed very close to the camera. It’s not a reflection, but is out of focus as the camera was focused not on it but on the reflection of the girl in the mirror. I had thought that it actually was the same bust as the one of Ludwig van, but I can’t seem to work out the spatial distribution of such things.

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Pigeon and the Salute, Venice, 2009

Most of my photography work this past week has been confined to resizing scans from negatives for posting on my new website. I allowed myself to leave my computer yesterday, when I drove to Pennsylvania and back to visit a photography dealer friend to see a bunch of his latest acquisitions plus other photos of interest. I liked a lot of them so who knows – maybe I’ll buy one of them one day.

For now, though, trying to save money and work on the new website has priority. The negatives that I’ve scanned recently have been those that I’ve printed as fiber prints, the great majority of them being printed in 2003 or earlier. While I may have stopped printing for half a dozen years, I didn’t stop taking photos, so I’ve also got a lot of unprinted photos to post on the new site, too.

The photo at the top is one of those. Made during my trip to Venice, Italy, last year, it shows a silhouetted pigeon with the domes of the famous church, Santa Maria della Salute, in the background on the left.

This photo reminds me a little of the famous photo, “Fondamenta Nuove, Venice, 1959,” by the late, great French photographer Willy Ronis (also seen here) as both show a silhouetted figure together with some more normally exposed content.

Getting back to my photo, this photo was definitely not a grab-shot. I saw the structure that the pigeon was walking on, together with the church in the background. I knew that I wanted to get the pigeon as a silhouette (perhaps with the Ronis photo in mind), but it had to be a full body profile, at the right spot and facing to the right to complete the composition I was thinking of.

As you can imagine, a pigeon is hardly the kind of creature to do exactly what a photographer wishes, so I stood there for several minutes, camera at the ready, waiting for the pigeon to move the right way. I think I’d thought of giving up and moving on when it didn’t happen, but I felt that the resulting image I had in mind would be worth waiting a bit longer for.

So I did, and so did the bird eventually move into the place I had hoped for, facing the right way. I don’t think it stayed that way for long, but all it took was one push of the button atop the camera. Then the wait was worth it.

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Katarina Ivanovska, The 'Hippy' Is Going To The BeachKatarina Ivanovska, The 'Hippy' Is Going To The Beach

Katarina Ivanovska, The 'Hippy' Is Going To The BeachKatarina Ivanovska, The 'Hippy' Is Going To The Beach

Katarina Ivanovska, The 'Hippy' Is Going To The Beach
Model: Katarina Ivanovska
Photographer: Santiago Esteban
Editorial: Lo 'hippy' se va a la playa
EPS 18 July 2010

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New Mexico Nude, 1998, #31

Recently, in a comment on a blog post made by my friend Dave Levingston, someone questioned why models told to hold their stomachs in for photos, rather than letting them hang out naturally. If photographs of the nude are created to celebrate the beauty of the natural human form, she reasoned, then why photograph that form in an unnatural state and, as some do, Photoshop them so much that they look unreal? (You can read what she wrote in the comments section here.)

Dave responded to the comments, which you can read (sequentially) here, here and here. Brooke Lynne, one of the models depicted in Dave’s photos, wrote a response (here) on her blog, too.
Well, before either of them wrote anything, I responded to Dave's request for other readers to respond. This is what I wrote:

"First, let me say that not all photographers Photoshopbrush their models. I use something called film, and the only digits I use to manipulate the looks of my prints are my fingers.

"Now, as I am a photographer and not a model, I cannot answer from a model’s point of view why she would do the ‘stomach in, chest out’ bit for photos. I can only say why I try to suck in my gut when I’m in a photo: because I think I’ll look better that way, because in our society, thinner is perceived as looking better.

"Therefore, I can only imagine that models may think the same thing, but also that such a pose would result in a more classical looking body line (which, I suppose, is another way of saying the same thing).

"The truth is, though, that not all models do this. I’ve recently been scanning a lot of negatives of the nude figure work I did in New Mexico. One of those photos – an image that Dave L had told me he likes and wanted to see a print of – depicts the torso of a thin young woman in profile. Rather than being flat as a board, her abdomen has a nice outward bend to it. Obviously she did not try to suck it in, which in this particular image is a good thing. Perhaps in other images it may not be so. "

I happened to call Dave L on the phone a few days ago to talk about a few things, including this discussion. After I finished speaking with him, I returned to scanning negatives to get my new website up and running.

As coincidence would have it, the very next negative that I scanned was the one that I wrote about in my comment! It’s the one in my post here. As you can see, this particular model was not holding her stomach in, and as I wrote, I think the photo looks much better as it is than if her stomach were as flat as a board.

By the way, being thin and having a good tan may be a sign of beauty and well being now, but it wasn’t always that way. In ancient Egypt, for instance, upper class women had pale skin, because having a tan meant that you had to work outside in the fields – not the work of the higher class. Similarly, being thin was a sign of not having an excess of food to eat. Having a gut meant that you were wealthy enough to have enough food to get fat on.

I guess that was in the days before junk food and supersizing.

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Today, July 14, is Bastille Day – France’s version of Independence Day, I guess. So, in keeping with the day, here’s a photo of a beautiful French girl photographed in the south of France in the summer of 2001. The location is the quarry at Les Baux, near Arles in Provence.

Otherwise, I am still busy scanning all of the negatives that I’ve printed up as 11x14 and/or 16x20 fiber prints. I think that by now I’ve reached the half way point. Hopefully, with a big effort this coming weekend, I’ll get to most of them.

I’ve also decided to work on yet another website, as I’m not happy with some important aspects of the current one. Time’s a major factor here, as I want my website to be ready by the time the issue of B&W magazine with my ad hits the streets at the end of next month.

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Here’s another photo of Amber in Joshua Tree National Park. The photo was made not long after I made the photos of Amber with Candace Nirvana that I displayed two postings ago.

By the time I made this photo it was getting pretty dark out. As I recall, these photos were the last ones I did for the day and I then had to get out my flashlight to help illuminate the way back to the car.

Consequently, being that dark, it was very difficult to focus properly with any certainty. I could have increased the odds by stopping down the lens to a smaller aperture, yielding greater depth of field and getting more in focus, but that would have increased the shutter speed beyond the point at which Amber could hold still.

Of course, as you can see, I was trying to do more than just get a sharp focus. I was also trying to maneuver Amber’s hand so that she appeared to be holding the moon in her palm. This also wasn’t easy, as she couldn’t see what I was seeing and I had to shout out directions to her for moving her hand – a little bit up, more the left, etc.

The photo is not perfect. I had tried to get Amber to move her hand so that the moon is more in the middle of her palm rather than by the heel, but it had taken a lot of effort to get it to this point and with the sky rapidly getting darker, I didn’t want to wait any longer.

Not only was I not sure if I got it in focus (and I may not know for certain until I try to make a large print), I was also upset at myself after we had finished and were heading back.

Why? Instead of only using a long, late day exposure that would show Amber normally as in daylight, I should have also made an exposure for the moon. That would be a normal, sunny day exposure as the moon is, of course, lit by sunlight. Amber’s figure would have been underexposed, yielding a silhouette, but the moon would be properly exposed and showing details.

Looking at the photo now, I don’t know if I missed that much by not exposing for the moon. After all, the moon is fairly small in the image, so any details might be lost except in a very large print.

As it is, if Amber is out of focus, I may have no choice but to print it down to a silhouette, anyway. The difference is that the overexposed moon, as you can see, is a glowing sphere – and perhaps that’s not a bad thing, after all. ******************************************************************************

I’ve added another blog to my blog list at the right – that of Bill Ballard, a photographer based in Savannah, Georgia. I’ve followed Bill’s blog for a while and finally decided to put him on the list.

As it happens, I also spoke with Bill on the phone this week. He commented on my last blog entry, as he’s done from time to time, so I decided to take a look at his website, which I hadn’t seen for a while. Noticing a phone number on his contact page, I decided to try calling to thank him for his interest in my blog and perhaps find out more about his photography.

Needless to say, phoning somebody out of the blue can be a risky proposition. I once called a woman who I had corresponded with on a photography forum in order to talk photography – something that I don’t get much of an opportunity to do, to be honest. Well, it was clear before very long that that conversation would go nowhere fast.

Still, I let the dice roll and dialed Bill’s number. Fortunately, things went much better this time, and I think we spent close to an hour on the phone. Bill does some good art nude photography, I think, and I invite you to follow his blog along with the others on the list.

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Untitled, 1997, #2

This past week has been a busy one as far as things photographic go.

Now that I’ve started printing photographs again, I’ve decided that it’s time for me to actually try to do something with them. For the most part, the only one who gets to see my prints is me, so I want to see if I can change that.

Of course, it would be nice if I can convince some people to open up their wallets to buy some of these prints. Not that I expect to really make any money on my photography, but it would be nice to get a little something back to help offset some of my photographic costs. To that end, I’ve decided to place an ad in an upcoming issue of B&W magazine. The ad copy and photos had to be submitted last week, so I spent a fair amount of time getting those things ready. There’s no guarantee that anybody will bite, but I’ve got to at least try. I’ll let everyone know when the issue with the ad has been released.

The day after that material was due was the postmark date for entering B&W magazine’s single image competition. I haven’t entered any of the magazines competitions in the past few years, so I thought I’d give it a try this time. Again, this is an effort to raise my profile, get some work published and added to my resume. I submitted more than I might have in another year to increase my chances, both nudes and travel photos – with the nudes only comprising about one-quarter of the photos. There’s only one category for nudes, but the travel work can fall under different categories, which I figure gives me more of a chance.

One effect of placing an ad is that I really need to get my new website up to speed if people are going to start looking there. I haven’t worked on the site in quite some time, but I’ve been preparing to do so by beginning to scan all of the negatives from which I’ve made exhibition prints. A good number of these will be posted on the website. Many of these I’d scanned before. The difference is that now I’ve got the title of each image recorded with the scan, enabling me to properly identify each image on the website.

I had to stay home on Saturday as I was waiting for a package from FedEx (which actually showed up, unlike past attempts), so I decided to begin doing the scans then. As the packaged didn’t arrive until around 3:45 pm, I had plenty of time for scanning and managed to scan a total of 40. I did a bunch more today, bringing the total up to 56. I’ve got plenty more to go through, but at least I’ve made a good start. You can see one of these newly scanned images at the top here.

Still, perhaps the biggest event was getting back into the darkroom yesterday after an absence of nearly three months. I want to try printing at least once a month – twice if I can manage it – but holidays, my trip to Japan, visitors staying over and other things just got in the way until now.

My intention was to make prints from three negatives, but as it turned out, I only had enough time and paper to print two – and one of those will probably need to be printed again as I’m not really happy with the results.

I still consider myself to be at a stage where I’m getting re-acquainted with darkroom work. There are two basic things, as I see it, to be relearned. One is the routine: the physical act of getting things set up, the manner in which to do things- and making sure I have enough paper as well as chemicals. (Fortunately, by the time I used my last piece of photo paper, it was time to call it quits, anyway.)

The other thing to get up to speed with is much more complicated. That’s what I call “seeing in the darkroom.” This involves the decision-making process: does a print need more or less contrast? Does it need any dodging and burning? Should it be darker or lighter? The most important question in this regard seems to be: when is enough enough?

Deciding that the final method for printing a negative has been reached is critical, as I typically make several more prints that way, being the final print. The problem here is that I have to forget that I have more negatives that I want to print and concentrate on the one at hand, taking a good look at it to be sure that I’m really happy with it.

That didn’t happen yesterday. In making my first print – a photo from Thailand – I was obviously thinking of the other negatives I wanted to print and not paying proper attention. I thought that I had made a good print and printed up two more, but upon later reflection I realized that it really needs more work.

It’s kind of like a shortstop who sees a ground ball being hit his way. Anxious to get a double play, rather than making sure to get one out, he hurries his actions and ends up booting the ball, getting nobody out. That isn’t totally the case of what happened yesterday, as I am happy with the second print – one of my nudes of Carlotta in Nevada – though it did take a lot of work and five tries before I finally got it right. Fortunately, I didn’t boot that one – and I hope to get back to the Thailand photo next time.

Still, I’m beginning to understand what Ansel Adams meant when he said that he’d be happy if he only made a dozen good prints in one year.

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