1.27.2017

A portrait from Primary Packaging in NYC.



Sometimes I think photographers overthink photo assignments. I know I certainly do. I've been obsessing about packing photo gear lately and you'd think I am incapable of making even a halfway decent image without a half ton package of lighting and grip gear. Which always brings me back to photographs like this one.

I took this image of the company owner near the end of a long day shooting in his printing factory. He was ready to walk out the door when I decided the project I was working on would benefit by having him visually represented in it. We were traveling lite that day, shooting everything with a single camera, one of three lenses and one light.

The light was a small, Lowell Pro Light, which is a little, focusable, tungsten fixture with a four way barn door set on it. My favorite modifier at the time was a crusty, old, shoot-thru umbrella that had, at one time or another, been bright white but had mellowed into a soft, subtle yellow. I plugged it in pulled the assemblage toward the desk, eyeballing the relative exposure differences between the available light and the light on my subject from the hot light.

I asked his secretary to hold a piece of cardboard as a "gobo" to shield the bottom part of the light in order to pull some of the brightness off his hands, papers and shirt. Her body also blocked some of the light from my fixture that would have overlit the area behind my subject.

I leaned in and took a quick meter reading and then focused my 100mm Planar lens on the front of a weathered 500 series Hasselblad and pulled the dark slide. We shot through one 12 exposure roll of film and then unplugged and moved on. We spent maybe twenty minutes on the shot although nothing was particularly hurried.

We didn't overthink the shot. We didn't make the situation any more dramatic than it should have been. No army of assistants. No make up person. No executive entourage. Just a brief, "How is it going? Are you getting what you need?" from the owner and a quick, "Things are going well. But we need you too. Can you just stay behind the desk and work while I set up a light?" And done.

I was packing today to do a portrait and a brief interview tomorrow. I've got a rolling Tenba case full of LED panels, a case of microphones, mixers and audio recorders, a rolling stand case with five or six light stands, a tripod and some modifiers, and, of course, a camera bag filled to the brim ----- just in case. It's all too much. After seeing this image I have the strongest urge to stick an old 28-85mm lens on one body, grab one panel and one pop-up reflector and be done with it. Oh, and a microphone. And a stand for the microphone. And a mixer. And some headphones. And.........

7 comments:

typingtalker said...

Two things make the shot for me. The almost grumpy look (attitude? Hurry up, I'm busy) on the subject's face and the off-center composition. It's a terrific picture. Did the client use it?

George said...

Wonderful. Good to be reminded that simple often just works. I think of Nancy Brown who made a ton of dough shooting beauty and lifestyle photos for Revlon and other name companies using simple gear - in the film days it was a Nikon F4 and 80-200 push-pull 2.8 lens. For headshots she used three pieces of 4x8 Fome-Cor and a small artist's table plus two lights. Props often came from a thrift store and models were often friends and neighbors. Same for Dylan Patrick: simple gear, simple method, and wonderful results. Enjoyed reading this.

Kirk Tuck said...

Yes, used as a 8 by 8 foot graphic at a trade show in the Jacob Javitts Center, and in advertising collateral...for years...

neopavlik said...

Last weekend I went to this group shoot where the weather was supposed to be horrendous. I brought along a portable light, that was my main light the last time I shot there, and is now a backup that I don't care about. The battery in the remote control died about 5 shots in so I shot Natural Light and it was fine. The first time I went I accidentally ripped out the sync port so I've brought that same light out there twice and it has shot a total of like 10 worthless frames while natural light has been way more productive.

Anonymous said...

Kirk

This is one of my favorite portraits. You've shown it a number of times before and it doesn't get old. I found something new that I don't think I had noticed before; the treasures, curios, or whatevers arranged in a semicircle in front of him. A barrier to those who sit in the visitor chair? Something stranger?

It also shows the picture format doesn't matter. You've shown wonderful portraits in 1.5/1, 4/3, and 1/1. I's well known that you prefer square but that doesn't get in your way when you generate art. It's all in the interaction of the subject and the portrait maker.

Jay

Stephen Emmons said...

I remember this portrait as well and it is some very fine work. I like the tones and the play of light against dark and how they balance one another.

Russ Goddard said...

Is that a conductor's baton on the desk to his right? If so, I find that very interesting . . . and I wonder what the story behind it is.