Learning To Crop With Lorian

Lorian — cropped photographs Alex Waterhouse-Hayward

I learned to process and print b+w negatives in 1964. I was taught by my friend Robert Hijar who was getting a fine arts degree at the University of the Americas which was situated on the road to Toluca outside Mexico City.

My idea of fun was to ensconce myself in a darkroom and move the enlarger head up and down as I did different variations of one negative through what we photographers call the crop. This sometimes resulted in hours of work and many prints that at best were forgettable and boring. It didn’t take me long to realize that the real difference between the so-so photographer and the better one was the photographer who could master the skill of cropping within the camera. This involves moving back and forth with your camera (or if you are lazy and have the money for a good one, zoom in or out) until what you see satisfies whatever innate idea of design and esthetics you might have.

Once you are at least comfortable with the in-camera crop you realize that in our world that shifts between metric and the English system you have the problem of fitting the one into the other. The venerable 35mm format was and is longer than the even more venerable 4x5 and 8x10 inch format. This problem was resolved by photographers who learned to print (or ask for the service in custom labs) full-frame within a standard sheet of photographic paper such as 8x10, 11x14 and 16x20 inches.

With the mechanics out of the way the photographer has to constantly practice (and you get many duds) with this in-camera crop. In portraiture and figure photography there are no fast rules so one has to use trial and error to achieve a comfortable cropping style.

I took these pictures of Lorian on Wreck Beach ( a Vancouver dress optional beach) around 1978 and I used Kodak b+w infrared film. The long and narrow picture I have further cropped so as to hide offending bits and pieces. But the others are full frame as I experimented in cropping. The “fracturing” of the human face and the body is a delicate matter and I soon found out what worked and what didn’t. Anybody who wants to learn how to crop in camera will have to go through the same paces and even in this age of fast, it will take time.

Lorian was a delightful (beautiful but her beauty was almost hidden by an inherent sweetness and a dolphin like built-in smile) subject for my camera. Her body was voluptuous. She was approached by Playboy head hunter Ken Honey many times but in the end nothing happened. One day I found out that Lorian had answered an ad in the newspaper from a Victoria painter who was looking for a “voluptuous female model willing to pose nude for a book cover”.

A couple of years later I traveled to Victoria on assignment for Douglas & McIntyre on a project of taking pictures of Victoria buildings for some BC textbooks. I spotted Lorian on the street and she invited me to her home for an evening of spaghetti where I met her delightful painter friend. Then I lost touch and never saw either of them again.

That Unkind Cut

Link to: Learning To Crop With Lorian

Originally published at blog.alexwaterhousehayward.com.