6.04.2012

Homage to Victor Skrebneski.

 Lou ©2012 Kirk Tuck


See his work here: Victor Skrebneski.

I was in a discount bookstore an I came across a book of portraits by Victor Skrebneski.  I was stunned at what he'd done, bought the book and looked around for more copies.  Then I started to study him.  He is a fashion photographer who has been working in Chicago since the 1950's and is most famous for decades and decades of beautiful Estee Lauder ads.  Amazing skin tones and wonderful colors.

But the book I bought, Skrebneski Portraits, was filled with high contrast images of faces and torsos.  It was powerful and different from all the stuff I usually saw in photo magazines.  

More and more my work started to reference Skrebneski's.  I find the directness of his black and white technique very compelling.




Edit June 5:  Do you need a copy of one of my first two lighting books in Chinese?

Here's the link:  http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss_1?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=kirk+tuck

Scroll down to items 10 and 11.

Internationally published.  Yes.

An interesting lens for the micro four thirds cameras.


I am sometimes at the mercy of my readers and my lust for fun stuff.  But I'm generally happy when someone points out a useful piece of gear that doesn't break the bank.  That's what the Sony DT lenses seem to be and that's what this particular lens seems to be.

As most of you know I've been using the MFT cameras since the introduction of the Olympus EP2 and the VF-2 finder.  I have both the 25mm f1.4 PanLeica lens and the very cute, cuddly and capable 45mm 1.8 lens but there are times when I'm looking for something more in the middle.  That's where the 60mm would come in handy.  It's just long enough to give me a better perspective than the 25mm but just short enough to give me more atmosphere than the 45mm.  From reports I've heard around the web it's a good performer and nicely sharp, even wide open. While some of my friends (Andy?) swear by the 20mm Panasonic I got rid of mine because I found it to be too wide for my tastes.  The performance of the lens was great but I found myself always wanting or needing to crop before it would start singing for me.  

The 25mm is just in the ball park and the 30mm focal length would seem to me to be ideal for street shooting.  I'm still deciding but in the meantime I'm getting great results from an old Olympus classic, the 38mm 1.8 for the Pen film cameras.  It's a nice performer an a decent focal length.

And there is a companion 19mm f2.8 for those who cringe at the Panasonic 20mm price: 



The Fake Baker.

©2012 Kirk Tuck

We were scheduled to photograph a baker for a shoot for Schlotzsky's Sandwich shops because they'd just added an assortment of breads to their original sour dough bread and they were going to use their "artisanal breads" as a marketing differentiator.  The image was to impart an "old world craftsman" look so the brief started by specifying black and white.  I immediately thought of the insightful yet straightforward work of August Sander, the German Photographer who documented various craftspeople in an amazing project that spanned decades.

The Pastry Chef ©August Sander.  

The photo shoot was the first image in the synthesis of the company's upcoming campaign so the company brass was there to oversee my work and the work of the ad agency.  In addition to the actual baker from one of their stores we also had, in attendance, both the CEO and the CFO.  The only problem for me was authenticity versus the right look.  While the baker they brought to the shoot had the right professional credentials he was also about 23 years old, had some tattoos and just didn't look the part.  

I pulled the art director aside and voiced my concerns and we decided to go ahead and photograph the baker and then find a second solution.  No sense hurting feelings on the set.  As soon as we made our decision it dawned on me that the CFO had just the right look.  A bit older and with more gravitas. The art director suggested that since it was my idea I won the job of persuading the man in the suit to make a temporary career change and don the chef whites.  

Once we finished photographing the younger (real) baker we thanked him and sent him on his way.  Now we got down to the real business.  We had the CFO put on the chef's coat, pinned the back so it fit right, put a little powder on his face to keep him in a nice "matte" finish and proceeded to photograph. We had a range of smiling, not smiling and permutations that mixed both but for some reason the consensus was that this shot was our keeper.

I made a straight black and white print with no toning or softening for the ad agency to use in print production.  Later I went back into the darkroom and printed on several different double weight papers before I finally settled on the look of Agfa Portriga paper, toned in a dilute selenium toner.  The version up above is the one I put into my portfolio. 

My portrait of the CFO/Baker was lit with one very large soft box (4x6 feet) which was further softened by an extra layer of white, silk diffusion in front.  A sheet of white foamcore placed about ten feet to the opposite side provided fill light for the left side of the subject's face.

The camera was a Pentax 6x7 with a 165mm lens. The film was Ilford FP-4.

If you don't know the work of August Sander you might want to do some web research.  I find his work amazing not only for the extreme quality he brought to location lighting so many decades ago but also for the anthropological interest it kindles.  You really feel as though you have a window into the past.  You might also be interested in Irving Penn's book on photographing trades.