Lisa Upside DownSaturday, January 22, 2011
Dealing with grandchildren can be a chore when both of them are girls and more so when one of them is 13. So all I can really say now is that Saturday was an up day with a severe down by the evening. This, in retrospect from my vantage point of writing this now, a Saturday blog on a Sunday evening, doesn’t feel so down.
And yet I will have to write about Saturday (which includes Friday night) at some length. I think I need to digest it in my head and these pictures you see here give me ample opportunity to harp on a serious subject that has a happy side to it.
The serious side of taking pictures of women (and if possible it is even better if they happen to be beautiful) upside down is that it is not easy.
I first saw a photograph of a woman upside down (that I can distinctly remember) in the mid 80s when I purchased a book about the classic Hollywood photographer George Hurrell. In the book there are two photographs of a woman on her back and upside down. One is Jean Harlow on a bear rug (his eyes are open and he is snarling) and the other is one of the most beautiful photographs of one of the most beautiful women in the world, Dolores del Río.
I decided then and there to give this upside-down-woman-on-her-back-on-a-divan/bed a try. I have since taken hundreds of these and this one is one of my favourites.
There is one thing I want to clearly point out here and this is the happy side I was mentioning above. This is a happy side for me as with some perversity on my part I am going to place here all the pictures as I took them. Lisa Prentiss (aka Alexandria) was upside down. Beginners who are given a photograph such as any of these will instantly turn them around to see what the woman really looks like. This is verboten, “low class”. If any of you reading this blog right now are turning their heads, or standing on it to see the image right side up, don’t! It simply is not done.
In most cases (and a few here are the exception) a person upside down looks strange when seen right side up. Gravity plays tricks (nasty ones, at that!) on the body and tends to pull down on skin and the underneath framework of muscles and, meat, yes meat! A woman on her back on a carpet when seen from a ladder that straddles her, will not look good. You need to place your subject on the curve of a divan or place (but hide it) a small pillow to make your subject’s head angle back while making the neck and shoulders go up.
The exception to all the above is to photograph someone in a tub full of water. I have much experience in these matters and I can attest that Sir Isaac Newton was absolutely correct to affirm that for every force there is an opposite force of equal strength. Water compensates for gravity and gently pushes up everything that tends to go down when one is on one’s back in a tub of water.
In the last few months as my age and the situation of photography combine to pull me into retirement I am looking back at my career through the pictures (negatives, slides, and many 8x10s, 11x14s and 16x20s in my files. I like to see how I improved or did so to the contrary. In any case I can see a progression into ever more complicated or bigger equipment. I can see a progression into more complex lighting. Yet I find that some of my earlier pictures, taken with 35mm cameras have a quality that I was never able to match the moment I put a medium format camera on a tripod. This meant that I had to plan my photograph precisely and then commit myself to a particular angle. In most of the pictures here I used not only lights but in some cases I used a spotlight attached to a gobo (go-between) which is a round piece of stamped metal that in some of the pictures here projected venetian blind shadows on Lisa’s face and body. There are a couple where the lighting is simply window lighting.
In this day and age of escalating pornography I find these pictures of Lisa refreshingly (to me) erotic and sexy without being coarse. In fact I find them rather classy!
But best of all for me, I now have the project of finding new Lisas (I lost contact with her years ago) and try to see if I can repeat these pictures with the same sense of excitement that I had the first time I took these. And would I be able to bring something new to these pictures? It is a challenge that I want to pursue.
And again, remember if you have any class you will admire (I hope) these pictures just as they are and you will not be tempted to turn your head around. This last sentence has made me consider that the whole idea that a blog is a personal diary on line is not quite an accurate definition. If that were the case why would I, in the least, be concerned about some poor folk straining a neck muscle or worse in not taking my to advisory seriously?
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