D' Artagnan's Girl RevisitedTuesday, April 08, 2008
I find it amazing that the apparent demise of photography is greatly exagerated. I have eager students at Focal Point who pay good money to listen to me talk about the problem with contrast in photography (most ignore it to their peril) or my constant criticism on the appearance of those terrible neck folds in their portraits or nude studies. Here are some pictures of Marthe in 1998. They are full of neck folds and, even worse, bad crops of legs and other extremeties. It would seem that what I now teach I have only learned most recently. But at the same time there is a quality that I can discern in these pictures that has all to do with my experimentation of different posing and shooting techniques on a seasoned dancer with flexibility, strength and a womanly presence in spades.
Yesterday I visited Horst Wenzel who tightened some screws on the cocking lever of my Mamiya RB-67. He asked me if I was still taking nudes. He also asked me why I do this. I explained as I explain to all my classes that the photography of nudes is a great help in the posing of the clothed. In my nude sessions in the studio there is no particular goal in my mind. I am not to take a head shot, or a profile that is to bleed on a page.
Or it is not a picture that will appear on a magazine cover and I have to watch for room on the bottom left to allow for a bar code. With inside magazine covers I have to be conscious that if it is a two-page spread the magazine gutter might split my subject's face. Of late I have chosen in my fun/experimental shoots to use faster film with no flash. I have been finally taking advantage of my big studio windows.
I have written about other reasons for the photography of the female body here.
With Marthe I had the obsession (one that is yet to diminish) of capturing that aspect of classical dancers and modern dancers that has nothing to do with grace, ease of movement or the ethereal presence of a swan. I wanted to and still want to reveal their woman aspect.
Today in the afternoon I will have the tall and strikingly beautiful modern dancer Delia Brett in my studio. She is going to appear with her 7-year-old son Beckett. Beckett looks exactly like his mother. I have never ever spoken to Miss Brett but I have seen her in performance. I only wonder why nobody has yet to assign me to photograph her. So I approached her. For those who are not familiar with the portrait photography of the German August Sander, it was this man whom I most admire for his quality of capturing a person's essence in particular to the person's profession. Sander captured for all time the essence of the young German soldier. This was an essence that lied nonetheless. But his portraits of bakers, policemen, Jews (those taken in 1938 are poignant as you know that perhaps a year later they would be dead) and the town beggar ooze with honesty and a respect for who they are.
Today I want to extract an August Sander type of picture that could be labeled "Dancer & Son". I have no other plans, no predisposed ideas and lots of excitement.