A disturbing photograph for a disturbing play.

Set up shot for a dark and disturbing play called, "Keely and Du".

Not every play can be light-hearted and whimsical.  Well,  I guess they could but it would be like eating donuts at every meal;  the fun, donut-ty-ness of the experience would wear thin and the woozy hypoglycemia would get old quick.  This was a publicity photograph for the play, "Keely and Du" which was about an older couple who posed as helpful counselors but were, instead, fanatics who kidnapped a pregnant girl and chained her to a bed in their basement to prevent her from getting an abortion.

Let me say from the outset that I won't let this blog get bogged down in politics or reactionism from either side of the ethical/moral issues.  I'm just here to talk about the actual photograph.

We were looking for something a bit disturbing and something a bit graphic to draw people into our ad.  We were reaching out to an audience with an appetite for challenging theater and this was certainly a challenging piece.

After years of trying to get people to smile or look pleasant I came to realize that getting just the right "disturbing" look takes a good actor and a good amount of collaboration and consensus.  We set up a large, Balcar umbrella (60 inches) with a baffle diffuser  as our main light and put it over to the left of camera.  In a rare break from my tradition I actually used an active fill on the other side rather than a reflective panel.  I wanted to keep the fill small and contained and used a small umbrella on a very low powered battery powered strobe and was careful to make sure that the actor on my right blocked the fill light from the younger actor's face so I could get the deep shadow area.

I shot with a Hasselblad 200 series camera with a 150mm f2.8 Zeiss Planar onto Agfapan 100 film, rated at ISO 50 and pulled about 10% in the development.  Even though the image was intended for the theater I still printed mostly on fiber paper.  This was printed on Ilford Multi-grade double weight paper and selenium toned in a very small dilution for a terribly long time.  I usually delivered an 11x14 inch master print if we knew that the image would be used in a four color reproduction.

I continue to search out these kinds of projects because it's so much more challenging than "shooting fish in a barrel."  I find that pushing outside the bounds of "popular" is a method to make your brain and your point of view flexible.  And I'm always reminded that mighty oaks are inflexible and can be uprooted by strong wind.  More flexible trees are harder to uproot because they bend with the wind.

1 comment:

David Ingram said...

A very interesting portrait and quite appropriate for you subject. What caused the shadow along the lower edge and lower right corner?

On the Media, an excellent program on NPR, did a 2 stories this last week on portrait work and photoshop dealing with making your subject look scary (famous Ann Coulter - Time Magazine cover photo and John McCain photo) or making your subject look "perfect" with photoshop.