From Glamour to NotWednesday, February 21, 2018
I cannot speak for other photographers but I can assert that this one has gone through many stages. When I look back at some of them I feel embarrassed and think, “Did I used to do that?”
Before Rosemary, our two daughters and I moved to Vancouver from Mexico City I was already making very good money taking family pictures of wealthy Mexicans. I had two cameras, three lenses and no flash. I used Tri-X and processed and printed the film in my home darkroom which was the bathroom in our garage shop.
I lusted at having powerful speedlights (as flashes were called then). And I worshipped an American photographer called Peter Gowland.
Peter Gowland (April 3, 1916 – March 17, 2010) was a famous American glamour photographer and actor. He was known for designing and building his own studio equipment and was active professionally for six decades.
Gowland shot more than 1,000 magazine covers, mostly glamour shots of female models but also portraits of celebrities including Rock Hudson and Robert Wagner. His covers included Rolling Stone, Playboy, and Modern Photography. He invented elite cameras and equipment that he used to shoot pinups and magazine covers. In the late 1950s, Gowland also invented the twin-lens Gowlandflex camera, which used 4-by-5 inch film for high-quality pictures. The camera has since been used by such photographers as Annie Leibovitz and Yousuf Karsh.
Gowland grew up on movie sets and worked as film extra in his youth. He learned photo lighting and techniques from watching movies being shot. The son of Gibson Gowland and Sylvia Andrew, both actors, he acted in at least 12 films, mostly uncredited. He had a small part in Citizen Kane.
|Photograph by Peter Gowland|
I particularly lusted after the women he photographed in the slightly conservative style of the times. His technique was to place his model by surf on the beach and he would blast them with a powerful electronic flash. The pictures were obviously lit. It was much later that photographers like Annie Leibovitz pioneered using the indirect light of large softboxes with the technique of giving the background a darker exposure. A similar and obvious, Gowland technique (obvious that a flash was used) were the magazines Beautiful British Columbia (which I looked at while in Mexico) that features proud fisherman holding up a fish while in a canoe.
By the time we arrived in Vancouver I realized that Gowland’s photographs were cheesy. I preferred the ones taken by Bunny Yeager who made Betti Page famous.
Both photographers paraded the idea that these women were beautiful but not sophisticated. They were healthy girls from next door.
Sometime in the late 80s I found the Bunny Yeager book in a used bookstore in Terrace. I love the book but I no longer wanted to imitate the look that Americans called glamour (with a u!). Glamour somehow was not quite pornographic but then it wasn’t straight portraiture.
In the modern times of this 21st century glamour is represented (and yes, they too are cheesy) by those who specialize in boudoir. I do believe that some wedding photographers also cross into that glamour look.
Around 1977 I was an habitué of Wreck Beach and it was there where I photographed my first nude. I did not use a flash and went for the shape of the woman and did not show her face. I was into the overall idea of a nude in a landscape being part of the landscape.
From there I graduated (evolved?) into the female (and some males) body as landscape within a studio. From there they became nude portraits with a further deterioration (?) into sexy nudes – erotic nudes to near pornography.
But there is one feature of my style that I have adopted all along from that first nude on Wreck Beach of the woman called Apri. The sand on her feet somehow feels odd to people who see the photograph. I like that oddness.
Now in this new year that is 2018 I am working very hard to go for that oddness. It is sort of like having a perfect photograph where there is an element that is not quite right or out of context.
Or somehow edgy.