THE TIMELESS QUALITY OF BLACK AND WHITE
During portrait sessions these past two weeks, I stepped away from the lighting scenario and worked with natural light to make portraits that I intended to convert to black and white. I still miss shooting black and white emulsion and often shoot with 120 when doing portraits but I didn't have the luxury of toting my Mamiya to these sessions. These images are ultimately not going to make my new portrait book but I wanted to publish them here on the blog.
The portrait I did of pilot captain, sailor and yarn spinner Warwick Cahill was done on the bow of his cruiser Providence and was one of a series of a images done prior to "lighting" him up with strobes. He was looking off in the distance at my assistant and the image jumped out later in the editing.Philip Polk Palmer described his voice and style as somewhere between Jim Morrison and Tom Waits and cited Nick Cave and Leonard Cohen as among his influences. I listened to his music at lunch on CD with Katherine so it was a seamless transition into our afternoon session working at an old, dilapidated greenhouse. Really terrific music.
Yesterday, I had the pleasure of spending the day in Vernonburg, Georgia working with painter, illustrator, artist extraordinaire Katherine Sandoz. She graciously gave me two hours of her time in her red barn studio and we worked with a lighting setup and then natural light outdoors on the barn's porch.
One of the most compelling images that came from the shoot, however, was a casual portrait in her living room as we shared coffee after a lunch provided by her artist friend McCay. Working with her was a true collaboration — we started with very formal portraiture and then she began working and occasionally stopped for a second, mid-stroke, to turn and give me a chance to shoot. It was a very fluid process.
We talked for a while about music and the recording options using digital technology. I'm looking forward to trying some of his suggestions with my own feeble recording efforts. After working three setups in the greenhouse, we stepped into the shifting light of afternoon and he sat on a rusty barrel swarmed by kudzu and vines. The contrast of his white shirt and peppery beard against the green was ideal for black and white.
There is a real timeless feel to working in monochrome, exposing for the shadows and printing for the highlights. I still enjoy film but I'm excited about incorporating Nik Silver Efex Pro into future digital work to take the tones to new places.