Post Mortem - Skulls & SkeletonsThursday, September 12, 2013
In the heyday of paid magazine and commercial photography in the 80s I regularly commanded a $2000 daily rate that did not (I repeat, did not include expenses such as gasoline, food and film). Logging and energy companies paid me this rate, in some cases for a whole week to shoot across Canada or to spend the week in BC, Alberta or Saskatchewan.
We all know that those days are long gone. This year I did a shoot for The Walrus that paid half that rate but it included all my film.
|Sean Emeny standing, Chris James|
As you might suspect, since film is expensive (in the 80s since our clients paid for film we used to say, “Film is cheap.”) the less film you use the more money you can rake in. This is especially important when what you rake in is minimal.
For years I have been shooting magazine assignments in which I might use only one roll of medium format transparency film (10 exposures in the 6x7 cm format).
|Thibaut Eiferman & Danny Nielsen|
In the last 10 years my magazine assignments have dwindled to nothing and I have spent more time behind my gas mower than behind my camera on a tripod. That is just the way it is.
But for the last 10 years the Georgia Straight has tapped me to shoot its Fall Arts issue. Perhaps around 5 years ago I would take the portrait of two dancers (each one individually), plus musicians, visual artists, comics and actors.
|Sylvia Grace Borda & Khan Lee|
The bean counters at the Straight figured that they had to pay me for 10 pictures plus the cover shot. So they had the idea that I would photograph those people two at a time even if in many cases the people involved had little in common or did not even know each other. This was a tough assignment.
This year I have noticed that they have imposed the same idea on the writer. Instead of the, let’s say, the theatrical writer having to write two individual pieces (and get paid twice!) they now combine the two actors as one piece.
|Stephanie Izsak & Josette Jorge makeup by Devon Bree Baker|
I miss those single artist assignments. That is how I was able to photograph a brand new dancer in Vancouver called Emily Molnar. Alone I could do lots.
This year I had to photograph a ballet dancer with a tap dancer. Go figure!
If this might sound complex, and it is, consider that for this year’s Fall Arts Preview I used a camera I had only had in my possession for a week and a half and with which I had only taken five pictures. The camera in question is my first digital camera, a Fuji X-E1.
I must clarify here that all times during this assignment (last week) I had in my trunk my medium format Mamiya RB-67 Pro SD and film, just in case!
Just because I now had a digital camera in hand I was not about to suddenly succumb to its so-called virtues and shoot lots. Instead like Odysseus I lashed myself to the mast and ignored my Circe-like Fuji X-E1. For this week’s cover I did not shoot 10 exposures on a 120 format roll of transparency. I shoot 7 pictures with the digitals.
For the first of the pictures, the comedians I noticed that in my 5 or 6 exposures there was a variation in the edges. I corrected this in the rest of the assignment by attaching my little camera on to my very large tripod. It looked silly but I could concentrate on what I wanted without having to worry what was in or out of my frame.
|Makeup Devon Bree Baker|
I checked the Straight’s cover today and I was astounded at the amount of shadow detail at the bottom. This is quite incredible as the both the singer and the guitar player are dressed in black and are standing on a black floor.
I shot the pictures with a rating of 100 ISO which is not recommended by Fuji as they note that I would get a reduced shadow detail!
Every year there is a theme. Last year I used an Arthur Erickson chair on an Arthur Erickson concrete wall (the roof of the Dance Centre on Davie).
This year the location was an unusual design studio run by Wendy Williams Watt on Maple Street. But if you notice in each of the pictures here (there are 6 not five as the dressed to the teeth actresses was an alternative cover) you will find either sculls, skeletons or skeletal hands. Why not?
If you are perceptive enough by now you must have suspected that my film costs were reasonable.
And lastly I must thank Georgia Straight Arts Editor, Janet Smith for trusting this old man on a fun project for which I will even (can you imagine?) be paid.