Testing & Inspiration with Silvia Gallerano — A Lovely Roman
In that long gone 20th century we photographers in Vancouver had to keep on our toes in various ways. If we worked for magazines it was important to visit the much larger pool of magazines in Toronto once a year. It was there where I showed my portfolio to art directors. The most important fact aside from having a good portfolio was to be able to convince the art director that I could produce on demand.
In my own city of Vancouver in that century it was paramount for a photographer to have a studio. Twice I shared it with another so as to be able to pay the rent. The most important feature in any studio in that time was the cove. This was a structure on one wall that was usually painted white and it curled from ceiling to floor so that properly lit, a person photographed would be standing with white behind from top to bottom and beyond.
A third factor was to test. Fashion photographers in particular tested. This involved dealing with new (and at the time is concerned beautiful and young females) models. In exchange for posing where the upcoming model would be able to add to her portfolio without having to pay the photographer, the photographer would try out (test) new films, new cameras and new lighting techniques.
Then with these results you went to see local art directors.
One of my first big jobs in the late 70s involved Vancouver Magazine Rick Staehling. I showed him my medium format (120 film) Mamiya RB-67. At the time photographers shot with 35mm cameras and the more wealthy ones with the medium format Hasselblad. The difference (not only in price) between the Sweedish/German Blad and my Mamiya is that the Mamiya instead of taking 6x6cm (very square!) photographs it gave me the option (by a nifty revolving film back) of taking vertical or horizontal 6x7cm photographs. Staehling asked me to shoot an assignment with that camera.
I never did look back and I must assert here that art directors everywhere like the fact that I shot vertical and horizontal and that this gave them the option of using my horizontals a two page spreads and the verticals as covers or full bleed (no borders) in inside articles. The 6x7 cm format was called the ideal format as it would fit magazine pages with next to no cropping (unlike those Hasselblad squares).
Another art director, Chris Dahl (and he did a lot of this) would transfer any one of my techniques into something not done before. I showed him portraits and nudes taken with Kodak b+w Infrared Film. He assigned me to shoot beautiful old homes in the Shaughnessy neighbourhood of Vancouver with that film. No architectural photographer would have ever done that. His interest in my infrared shots came from me showing him a portrait (with that film) of my two daughters.
For a while in the late 80s I went nuts with Hollywood lighting and specifically the work of George Hurrell. To even begin I had to purchase a boom so I could do boom lighting (from up there) and a circular hard spotlight. This testing immediately led to me getting my first and last fashion job ever! For most of my magazine photography career I considered fashion the kiss of death for any local photographer. Magazines would get tired of their style and shift to the new kid in town.
It was my test shot of model Karen Campbell (above) where I used a boom light and projected clouds behing her using a focusing spotlight and metal gobos (in this case with a cloud pattern) that got me a very big job on, of all things what my subjects did to keep thin!
In the link below, Inspiration by Unexpected Error there are some photographs that came from my taking pictures of a Japanese/Canadian woman with her Shiatsu instructor. My camera was crooked within the confines of a ring flash. I did not know this and my Japanese/Canadian friend was much too polite to point it out. The resulting error led to one of my trademark shots in which I feature the side of the ring flash by, this time purposely having my camera crooked.
i And so on with how photographic errors and testing lead to wonderful new stuff. I find it sad to point out here that this last week’s of photographs that are the result from testing with the kind Silvia Gallerano came about from someone who lives miles away in Rome. All this while I am unable to find anybody here, who lives here, to test with me! The picture that adorns the beginning of this blog is the negative peel of the now discontinued (I have a few boxes left) Fuji FP-100c Instant Colour Film (100ISO) which I shoot with my Mamiya RB-67 with a Polaroid back. Once the peel is dry I put it face down (the black shows on the top) on a large dinner plate. I tape it with the virtually waterproof plastic lining used to line kitchen cabinets. I spray the black with a half and half mixture of bleach and rub with my fingers. Eventually the black disappears revealing a weird colour negative. I place it in water for a few minutes and then hang it to dry. I place the negative peel on my scanner (it will scan negatives and slides besides prints). I tell my scanner that I am doing a positive. I scan and then with my 13 year-old Photoshop I reverse that negative to a positive. Then working with both Photoshop and Corel X2 I increase the contrast and tonal separation. It is just about impossible (at least for me) to ultimately correct the colour. But I like the results. And thank you Silvia Gallerano for your inspiration and patience.
Triscuits for Kate
Originally published at blog.alexwaterhousehayward.com.