Visions of GRANDeur
"Indeed!" as Marshall Shore likes to say.
Indeed, it has been a very long time since I blogged. I went through a period of really examining what I like to photograph, and a meeting last year turned into a project that solidified where I belong in photography, at least in my mind.
In September, 2015, I met Marshall Shore at a Roosevelt District Artist Meetup at Monorchid. Marshall was a breath of fresh air. The beard, the glasses, the bow tie clipped on a lapel and left to dangle, and that laugh. Those of you who know the Mah-velous Marshall know what I mean. I asked my friend Daniel Swadener to introduce us, and he kindly obliged. The first words out of my mouth were, "I MUST photograph you." He laughed and said, "Sure. When?"
That meeting resulted in a very fun shoot on October 24th, 2015. The result was a pretty iconic photo of Marshall, though we did get more than one good shot from the shoot. Mike Eller assisted me, and the three of us had fun working with Marshall's bow tie collection, blazer collection, and eyewear collection.
Fast forward to 2016. I'm on a magazine assignment at a festival on 7th Avenue, and there is Marshall, assisting vintage clothing boutique diva Jenny Kuller. He mentions he might have a project to collaborate with me on. Marshall, asking moi to collaborate? Say no more! It took a couple more weeks to get the deets, but it turned out that Marshall was getting Chartreuse Gallery for the month of September for his 50th birthday, and he was curating his own show. I was one of the invited artists, and his concept was a photo shoot with friends of his who also have unusual eyewear, as a result of that great photo I took of Marshall. He wanted that feel with these images.
We batted logistics and such about for a bit, but in the meantime, I was pondering things like backdrops, lighting, and lighting with eyeglasses. If you don't know, photographing people with eyeglasses is difficult. The lenses have this maddening way of catching the reflection of the studio lights. When you see commercial advertisements with eye wear or sunglasses, the lighting reflection is either very purposeful, or it's been shot to keep the light out and also edited to remove any reflection. My past experiences in photographing someone wearing eyeglasses resulted in lots of time editing the reflections out. I had to get it right "in camera" this time.
Eventually I decided to shoot everyone on white, black, and colored gel backdrops. Marshall's image was lit with both yellow and orange gels, and I wasn't sure how cohesive the photos would be. I decided to give myself options. Options are good--after the shoot, it's too late.
Marshall narrowed down his list of subjects to four people, from an original nine. "Man About Town" Oscar de las Salas, lovely Millye Bloodworth, the impish Deon Brown, and the inspirational ceramicist Patricia Sannit were the lucky models. Actually, at the end of this, I was the lucky one.
We photographed everyone in two weekends, each one with a two hour session. I was methodical. Start with the black backdrop, switch to the white, then change the lighting and add the gel for each subject. Marshall was present for all the shoots, and it was great, because the conversations that came out of those shoots were terrific. Each subject shared a bit of their history and background, and really opened up for the camera. Marshall and I didn't want sedate, serene posing. We wanted the life and personality that all of these people exude on a daily basis.
Ultimately as I edited and combed through the results, I fell in love with a number of the images, but as I thought about the body of work, I decided all of them had to have the gel backgrounds. Furthermore, as I test printed the images on 4x6 paper, and compared them all, I realized that they were beautiful as photographs, but the color was so intense, I was afraid the color would override the personality being captured. One of my reasons for loving black and white photography is that the absence of color frees you to examine the details and the emotion. I kept looking at these images, and decided I need to do something I don't do often. I decided these were going to transition from being photographed portraits to a photographic painting.
The editing began, and once I saw the results, I knew it was the right decision. The portraits had a different life in their new presentation.
The itself was terrific. Marshall did a great job selecting the artists, and a lot of people came to see all the wonderful things he brought together, from the specially made Marshall Muppet to Zarco Guerrero's sculptures to the Cudia City stage curtain Marshall rescued, to Hector Primero's fantastic merging of antique photos and his modern photos, and so many more artists.
Now that the show is over, I look at these portraits, and I'm reinvigorated by the freedom I had in creating these images from beginning to end. Marshall, thank you for inviting me to this show, and I hope there is more collaboration in our future.