Third in a series of Art Historians. Pose.

I hate what happens to black and white prints when I upload them to Blogger. They get grayed down. The surrounds go from 95% to about 74% and it makes me crazy. Oh well. This is the last image I'll show in the series of Art Historians and it is my personal favorite.

I'm not sure why other than that I like the tilt of the subject's head, the accessorizing of the scarf and neck chain as well as the tuft of hair right in the middle of this accomplished woman's forehead. No features, I am afraid, that would pass the test of modern portrait imaging as approved by the web at large. But then the audience for these images was an entirely different demographic...

It was 80 degrees in Austin today with bright sunshine. I bought a tank of gas today for $1.70 a gallon. The world has turned upside down.

I hope everyone who regularly reads VSL is happy, well and warm.

Resume following me on Twitter: https://twitter.com/KirkTuck

Just a photograph of clouds and a tree.

I was having coffee with a friend yesterday afternoon. We were helping each other stay motivated with our respective projects. It's a great thing to have friends who will push you forward. Once you've discussed a project that you want to do it's almost as if you have more discipline simply because you don't want to let them down.

As artists we all need to know and socialize with other artists because they so rarely ask you things like: "Will that be cost effective?" "What's the R.O.I. on your creative venture?" "Won't that take time away from paying work?" And all the other helpful advice and suggestions that people who don't do their own art projects like to offer by way of constructive input.

We were sitting outside, enjoying the warm spell, and the sky began to change just before sunset. Neither of us said anything about the sky but we both glanced over as the light became more beautiful. I don't remember who stood up first but we walked over the edge of the sidewalk and shot a few images of the sky and the clouds and the trees. I can pretty much guarantee that we did it because we both felt that the sky in that moment was beautiful.

And I can pretty much guarantee that neither of us was thinking, "I wonder how much money I can get for that image as a stock photograph."

Find friends who are artists and hang out. Feed the fire. Turn the coals. Help them get their projects done. Let them help you to do the same.

When making a series of portraits continuity can be important. Art Historians, part 2.

Art Historian.

Few things bother me more when looking at a printed brochure or a website than being confronted with a page of photographic portraits that are not consistent in look and feel. I looked at a website for a law firm yesterday. Three years ago I had made portraits for them of all sixteen partners and all of them were on consistent backgrounds, with consistent color and head sizes. The feel of the lighting was carried through from photo to photo.

Over the last three years some of the partners retired or moved on while nine new people were added to the roster. Unfortunately, they must have decided not to spend the money on updating the website with new images of the newcomers because each new added photograph was strikingly different. Some were done with very hard light. Some where phone-cam snaps. Others were archaic styles from another time. It's not that any one image was horrible but that the mismatch of images stood out like a red wine stain on a white silk dress. The ensuing collage of mixed styles and varying level of production quality damaged the visual integrity of the page and degraded the marketing effect dramatically.

I try to make sure that we don't have that problem if I can help to avoid it. I keep a sketch or lighting diagram of the shoots I do so I can replicate them closely if there are additions after the initial shoot. If we are doing projects with teams here in Austin and counterparts in another state or country we set a style, shoot it and then create a detailed style guide for our counterpart photographers. The goal is to be able to seamlessly insert an image into a corporate website and have it look like it matches everything else on the site.

Continuity of style is part of a company's brand. You work with the marketing people not only to come up with the style but to preserve it over time. Yes, I did send a note to the marketing director at the law firm.  Yes we will probably reshoot everyone.


Portrait of an Art Historian.

I was commissioned to make a series of portraits of art history professors at the University of Texas at Austin. The client and I decided to go with black and white images as it seemed appropriate to the nature of their work.

To make the assignment most efficient it was decided that I would go to their location at the Fine Arts College and set up a temporary studio. I worked with medium format cameras and high powered electronic flash generators. The lighting was very simple. I used a 4x6 foot soft box as my main light, adding an extra layer of silk diffusion material to give me the look I wanted. I did not use any fill to the opposite side of the subjects' faces in order to add contrast and black intensity to the images.

I was able to select a room that had a good amount of distance from front to back and I set up my canvas background as far from the subjects as I could while keeping the subject framed correctly and without showing the edges of the background material. The background was lit by a small soft box powered by a second electronic flash generator. The background soft box was positioned directly behind the subject and just below the shoulder line.

For each subject I exposed two twelve exposure rolls of black and white film after testing the set up carefully with black and white Polaroid test materials.

After we wrapped up the shooting I returned to the studio where I processed the film and hung it up to dry. The next morning I went back into the darkroom to make contact sheets of all the rolls of film I'd shot. I made two sets. One for my use and to keep with the film in the filing cabinet, and a second to give to the client for selection purposes.

After the individual images were selected (days or weeks later) I went back into the darkroom and made 8x10 inch, double weight fiber prints of each person. Excluding test prints I made sets of prints "bracketing" exposures by small increments in order to get exactly the level of highlight detail I was looking for. The prints were marked with copyright and contact information on the backs with pencil and I asked that the prints be returned to me after the contracted use.

I came across the envelope this morning as I "thinned out" a drawer in one of the filing cabinets and pulled the prints out to take a look. These are quick copy shots of the printed material and certainly don't have the same impact,, as small images on the web, that they do when one is able to hold them in one's hands and really examine the subtly toned surfaces in good light. Maybe that is a reason why actual photographic prints seem overlooked these days; there is less exposure to the actual product and what is seen on the web is hurried and prone to bad electronic interpretation.

In my encounters with subjects I am rarely interested in in smiling images and much more interested in images that show the personality of the sitter as I have experienced them, even if our exposure to each other is limited. I like the compression I get with longer lenses and I like to fill the frame with the main subject so I can really go back and inspect the nuances of their faces.

The critical part of a portrait shoot is establishing a rapport with the sitter and providing an emotional space that makes it safe for the sitter to relax into the stasis that represents themselves at rest. Everything else is just showmanship...