Saturday, March 03, 2012

Darkness and Light

If you have 90 minutes to spare and you haven't already seen it, a great way to spend that hour-and-a-half would be viewing PBS' 1995 American Classics documentary, "Richard Avedon: Darkness and Light." Even if you have already seen it, it's worth a second viewing.

"Richard Avedon: Darkness and Light" isn't so much a biographical film about Richard Avedon. It is Richard Avedon himself. And much of it in his own words! (And, of course, the words of others as well.) This Avedon documentary is required viewing, or it should be, for every photographer intent on bettering their work, specifically portrait work. I've seen it twice. Both times, Mr. Avedon taught me new things, new ways of looking at my photography, new ways to approach my work and the people in front of my camera.

Avedon reminds us those people, our models and subjects, aren't just there being photographed. They're giving us gifts. Not just gifts of their likenesses, but gifts in the form of moments where they share something more about themselves with us, allowing us to occasionally photograph them, if we're lucky or clever or deserving of the gifts, in ways they may not often share with others.

If you're interested in people portraiture, whether it's glamour, fashion, commercial, art, or something else, I can't recommend enough you view this documentary. If you don't come away from this learning experience with new ideas or new ways to approach your work, you weren't paying attention. If that happens, I'll gladly refund the price of admission. Oh. Wait. You can watch it for free! Forget about the refund. None required.

The young lady in her PJs below is one from a set I shot last night. When I arrived at the location and set up a single light, my client asked me, "Jimmy, where's your other lights?" Fortunately, he's a good friend of mine so when I answered simply by saying, "I'm only using one light tonight," my friend looked at me for a moment and said, "Okay." (Albeit with a bit of hesitation in his voice.)

In the end, my client/friend was happy with what I shot. For most of it, I had the model go through all the usual glamour poses and expressions, in and out of the PJs. If you don't think a model can make wearing a pair of pajamas with rubber duckies on them fun and sexy -- and not by playing it like she's too young for such photos -- you're wrong. For a few shots, like the two below, I asked her to quit being the sexy, energetic, eye-candy model she usually is in front of a camera and let me see some stuff she doesn't often share. (Click to enlarge.)

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