When my long time friend and favorite expatriate messaged me that she would be returning to New Jersey for a short, yet important visit. I knew the odds of me seeing her this time around, let alone catching up on her three years in Germany were about as good as the Cleveland Indians winning the World Series. Still, any chance to see such an old and dear friend was worth taking. Imagine my surprise when she was both available and looking forward to indulging me in one of my truest passions, studio photography. The hours we spent together were more of a gab session with me sneaking in a shot or two whenever I could.
Having met Mandy in the parking lot of a strip mall adjacent to my high school when I was sixteen. The likelihood of us ever becoming friends seemed improbable to say the very least. Yet, despite being polar opposites we became trusted, close friends before long. Supporting one another through sickness and health.Through the good times and bad. She’s been a huge supporter and influence on me as a photographer and as a volunteer to worthy causes. She’s one of the few people in my life who crosses the lines between friends and family. One’s that, no matter the distance or time. Remain, unspoken, an integral part of my life. And as my Mother put it “Damn, that woman does not age.” Looking at this picture. I think it highlights both her beauty and unwaning strength. I’m incredibly grateful for having the chance to catch up with her. One of Jersey’s best, no matter where she goes.
Having worked with Tory on two separate occasions. We’ve worked towards creating some noteworthy images. Ones that displayed both her talent and beauty. Strangely enough, each of the two sessions left me scratching my head, thinking, she is far more beautiful than I’ve portrayed her to be. Far to beautiful to be hiding under all the clothes and makeup that only serve to mask any of her beautiful features.. Just an opinion, but one that cried out, begging for redemption on my part. For, in my heart of hearts. I had failed in not portraying her as the beautiful woman I saw her as.
Armed with ideas and a sense of determination I reached out. Much to my surprise and slight confusion, she not only agreed, but thanked me for the second (actually third chance.) Knowing, as well as accepting that each individual has their own sense of style and look that they’re comfortable with. It can make for a difficult task in attempting to have someone give in to a look other than their own. In Tory’s case, she made it incredibly easy for me. My suggestion to wear a comfortable tee shirt and go minimal with the makeup could best be equated to a less is more theory. Personally, I felt that those small changes went a long way to bring out her true beauty. I was finally given the chance to see the woman I always envisioned was under the makeup and clothing.
I can’t go without thanking her for both the opportunity and trust she gifted. I’m more than happy to report that I finally got it right.
The night had all the markings of a great shoot. A beautiful model, a talented make up artist and good lighting. Erica and Denise got to the studio on time and got right to work on the hair and make up. When Denise first brought up the idea of body painting we had very different ideas of both the approach and overall look. A couple of years back I photographed a fully body paint job from start to finish. It was quite and eye opener to say the very least. Denise’s idea seemed a little less larger in scope. Maybe some basic face paint, not much else. However, as the days past and the date was set, we came closer to a middle ground and came up with a great concept.
About two hours into the make up job I began taking shots and only minutes after the job was complete, so was the photo shoot. Not that it was rushed or anything of that nature, no, not in the least. We got some great shots in a sort amount of shooting time. We all parted on friendly terms with some new experiences under our collective belts.
A few days later after sending the images out to both Denise and Erica I began to see pictures find their way onto Facebook. Normally I would have no issue with it whatsoever. However, the images she loaded looked washed out and less than flattering. I commented on one of the images how they looked as if they were taken with a cel phone. That is when the fit hit the shan. Denise blew up on me on both Facebook and in a text. “How dare you criticize MY picture?” “You are a rude fucking so and so.” The tirade continued and grew in anger and threats of retribution. It seemed uncalled for and quickly took on a comedic level of neurosis. It left me wondering, “Did I really say anything that could be construed as demeaning or cruel.” In going back to the picture and my comment I could honestly cut myself a break and chalk it up to somebody just completely blowing something way, way out of proportion. Though there are always three sides to every story, I really have a hard time seeing myself as the bad guy here. Needless to say, it was an important lesson in being very selective in who you spend your time with. Do what you must to control the crazy that sneaks it way into your everyday.
During a winter workshop I attended in 2012. The instructor pointed out that my studio work was flat. It was an observation that, at the time, I really did not understand what she meant but took it as a negative critique of my work. A few moments later I was asked about the editing software I used. When I replied “Aperture” a gasp of shock and shame seemed to fill the room. Looking back, it was it if I was cast aside, exiled and destined to wear carry the Scarlet “A” (A for Aperture) around with me for life. Later that day a fellow attendee took me aside and suggested I move up to Lightroom 4. He used some easy to understand comparisons for me to understand. “It’s like going from Atari to Xbox. He also took the time to explain lighting techniques a little deeper. Though I was a bit embarrassed by my shortcomings at the time. I was more grateful for the knowledge and learning experience.
Almost as soon as the workshop let out the day. I was off to purchase Lightroom 4 and book a few sessions in order to test my new knowledge out. I could immediately see the difference in the images I was editing in Lightroom 4, especially by making minor adjustments with the black and white levels. (not available with Aperture) Simple tweeks that made a world of difference in the images I had taken. Minor adjustments in highlights can also be noted. I could already see the depth to my older work. When my model stopped by I changed the lighting angles and worked with less light. Something that also added depth and character. I really got to understand what she meant about flat images and flat lighting. I was no longer flooding the room with light. I was using it to to highlight areas, not overwhelm them. Since learning this, I’m really seeing the light, shadows and detail of the image before I even take it. It’s given me more confidence. I find myself working faster and taking fewer wasted shots. It’s been a real revelation to me. One that I know will help me continue to enhance my skill and build on what I’ve already learned. Like Yoda said “In a dark place we find ourselves, and a little more knowledge lights our way.”
Slowly but surely I’ve been getting back to the studio, trying new things and experimenting with different lighting techniques. At the same time, I’ve been trying to cut down on shooting time and concentrate on producing better images. This past Sunday I tried some new things while working with a new model. During what seemed like a very short session we tried different lighting angles and took advantage of my rather nice wood floors and her very sexy boot. Denise was very versatile, laid back and fun. We laughed, shared stories and listened to the likes of Radiohead and Quicksand. Before our session was over, we were already talking about working together again in the near future. Not bad for a couple of people who had met just minutes before.