The Cabinet Maker's Wife

Discussion in 'Photography Beginners' Forum' started by Dick Sanders, Jan 9, 2009.

  1. Dick Sanders

    Dick Sanders TPF Noob!

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    Usually I'm commenting and helping here, but I thought I'd post one for comments. My cabinet maker came over to install some custom shelving and brought his wife. She was very quiet and shy and had the darkest eyes. I asked if I could make a portrait of her while her husband installed the shelves. Key light is a 36 inch softbox directly in front and above the subject; second light on the white background; white reflecting flats on each side.


    [​IMG]

    Comments welcome. Oh, and she does have a name -- Lili.
     
    Last edited: Jan 11, 2009
  2. tsaraleksi

    tsaraleksi TPF Noob!

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    It looks very severe. I'm not sure if that's what you were intending but she looks very "hard" if you will. The look pairs well with the eyes. I think with different lighting it would have been very haunting.
     
  3. Dick Sanders

    Dick Sanders TPF Noob!

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    My intent is always to reveal and show. But your observation is accurate. I learned later she has had a hard life, and, unfortunately, a sad childhood.
     
  4. Dionysus

    Dionysus TPF Noob!

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    and that comes through in the photo, so to me, mission accomplished, and good work.
     
  5. rdzmzda

    rdzmzda TPF Noob!

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    she looks uncomfortabel to me....something just out of place about the arms
     
  6. OregonAmy

    OregonAmy TPF Noob!

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    The arms, to me, gave me two immediate thoughts: "She's holding her arms out like 'don't mess with me'" followed by "maybe she has her hands in her pockets"

    I like it. The straight-on shot captures her well. I would have liked a darker background, but really that's all I have to add :)
    :thumbup:
     
  7. Mgw189

    Mgw189 TPF Noob!

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    I was thinking the same things as AMY she does looks like she could kick my ass. I would really like to see a softer pose and lighting with a dark background. It is a beautiful shot and she is a beautiful model though.
     
  8. Dick Sanders

    Dick Sanders TPF Noob!

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    Lili is a tough young woman and her thumbs are stuck in her jeans pockets (it adds tension). She's also a pretty young woman, and it's probably not pleasant to think of her having a hard life. There's a tendency to want to make her softer, lovelier. But my work is primarily serious portraiture of strangers (I often do street portraits in rough neighborhoods). For me, it's all about what's revealed about life on the face. And how much time (or life lived) I can show on the face. When I met Lili she was, essentially, a stranger to me, and the above portrait was made within minutes.

    Also, while I use both light and dark backgrounds, the dark background tends to be more mysterious, more romantic, more glamorous. The white background is emptying -- it forces you to examine and contemplate in a non-romantic way. But often, when I get to know a person, I'll also do a romantic (or happier) portrait of them because, typically, he or she doesn't like the portrait I made for myself. So, let me show you the romanticized portrait of Lili that I made two years later. It's still very serious, as I prefer that, but Lili herself is very serious. It's also revealing, I think. And Lili liked this one.

    [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: Jan 11, 2009
  9. dtornabene1

    dtornabene1 TPF Noob!

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    I think the stark contrast and gritty realism is spot-on. This is further up-held by viewing the same subject shot in a different setup. The harsh focus of this woman’s life is exposed by viewing her troubled past in her eyes.

    Furthermore, the arms are exactly where they should be. It has been mentioned above; the “don’t mess with me” point of opinion about the arm placement. But has not been mentioned, was the general trust the subject has with the photographer.

    If there was no trust, her arms would be crossed or her hands would be on her hip.

    The only thing I’d like to see different is the tonal contrast. She is gritty in this photograph, so darker blacks leaving the highlights alone.

    Remember, this woman just came along with her husband. No intention of having herself photographed. This is as real as it gets. I truly believe this is Dick’s philosophy with these types of photographs. It is an almost impossible look to achieve via model.

    Great job as usual Dick.

    -Nick
     
  10. fridrich

    fridrich TPF Noob!

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    Dick,
    great photograph, both of them.
    Two different intentions for two distinctly different audiences, both given exactly what they wanted and what they needed.

    Certainly the use of Notan mode of lighting rather than the usual Chiaroscuro portrait lighting for the first photograph is the root of the "hard", and "rough, kick-ass" comments. You carry on the great Richard Avedon work from the "In The American West" portraits. Reality, you go to the subject, to where the subject is comfortable and you make the photograph. Very consistent images in light, tone and attitude. You allow the subject to reign supreme, not the photographer. This is not easy.

    The second portrait is for the sitter. A nice likeness for her mother. Different intent, different audience.
     
  11. Dick Sanders

    Dick Sanders TPF Noob!

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    Nick and Fridrich: Thanks for your comments. Nick, I'm going to show a version with a little more contrast and darker blacks. Which will also push it more toward the "Notan" mode of lighting/design Fridrich mentioned.

    --From Wikipedia:
    Nōtan (濃淡, Nōtan?) is a Japanese design concept involving the play and placement of light and dark next to the other in art and imagery. This use of light and dark translates shape and form into flat shapes on a two-dimensional surface. Nōtan is traditionally presented in paint, ink, or cut paper, but it is relevant to a host of modern day image-making techniques, such as lithography in printmaking, and rotoscoping in animation.

    [​IMG]
     
  12. dtornabene1

    dtornabene1 TPF Noob!

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    I get you, but I think there is two things to do in getting that look. First is make-up to lighten the skin. Second, and most importantly, is to get high contrast from to lights 45 degrees to the subject's center. One left and one right.

    I am thinking more of a silver umbrella rather than a soft box.

    That might just give this a starker contrast.

    Just some thoughts. I liked the photograph the way it is. Changing it as you did in pp emphasizes noise and discoloration of her skin. Now if you were to drop the red channel more...

    -Nick
     

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