Friday, November 27, 2009

Inspiration: Bob Carlos Clarke

I have long been a fan of Bob Carlos Clarke's work but was mainly familiar with his latter work especially the 2003 book Shooting Sex and his wonderful portraits of objects he found in the Thames. However, last year I discovered his early, long out of print book Obsession in my favorite used book shop in Saugerties, New York. I was amazed at the work, the toned black and white photos, the elaborate photo collages, every page was a feast for the eyes. I remember saying to myself " why haven't I seen this before?" and then I came to the photo titled Vampirella and I realized I had seen many of these images before when I was very young. I remember the image from one of my Dad's magazines, I think it might have been OUI which he had a collection of (a google search has revealed a 1983 issue featuring Bob's work).  As soon as I saw the images in Obsession it all came back to me, stnading in my Dad's study looking at the pages in awe of these images that were unlike anything I had ever seen before or would probably see again until over twenty years later.

Since I purchased Obsession I have been trying to mimmick the toning and photo-montage techniques that Bob employed using photoshop. This photo is my most successful to date. I would like to try making a Gum Dichromate print out of this or perhaps printing it to canvas and then painting over it.

Getting back to Bob, I am curious as to why the majority of his early work is nearly impossible to find anywhere, maybe I should inquire with his estate. I do wish more were familiar with his wonderful work.  

Monday, June 29, 2009

The peel session - behind the scenes and every shot in under a minute

The peel session from Matthew McMullen Smith on Vimeo.

The idea for the shoot came from my Art Director friend Amelia Tubb to cover model's faces with liquid latex; "basically I want to get them pulling it off their faces like they are pulling it off their skin".

I was extremely terrified and excited to do this shoot. None of us had any idea if this would work or what the results would be. My worst fear was the models ripping their eyebrows off or worse!

Crystal Truehart, Jena Mroz, and Samantha Fox endured three hours and numerous coats of liquid latex before peeling it off. Poor Samantha had her mouth covered in latex so she couldn't even talk for like an hour! I think we effectively waxed Jena's back! We have over 900 photos to sort through!

The video starts off with a little behind the scenes footage of the girls having their makeup done but keep watching to see every shot of the day in under a minute.

For anybody interested the lighting setup was an AB800 with 22" Beauty Dish as the key on a boom just in front and above the models head, another AB800 on a boom in back of the model with a 40 degree grid aimed at the seamless, both were at 1/2 power. A speedotron pack and head with a 10 degree grid was to camera left, positioned to just feather the side of the model, some shots had a yellow, blue or red gel. A large white v-card was to camera right, it was used as a straight bounce but on some shots I put a Nikon SB-800 on the ground with a gel and bounced off the flat. Finally there was a ABR800 ringlight on the camera at 1/16 power to add a little extra "pop". One of the more complicated setups I've used in a while. I felt like Lionel Deluy with all those lights!

Thanks to all the models and makeup artist Leyda Quintero for all your hard work and enthusiasm on the shoot. Jewelry provided by Tom Binns.

Music: NIN Ghosts VII

Monday, June 15, 2009

Limited Edition 11"x 14" prints of the photos featured in B&W Magazine for sale

After many inquiries, the Excellence Award winning photographs featured in Black & White Special Edition #68 will be offered for sale. First editions will be limited to 20, signed and numbered handmade 11" x 14" archival inkjet prints on Hahnemuhle Fine Art Baryta 325 paper, matted and mounted on 16" x 20" board. Please visit to view and/or purchase the photographs.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

It's all about the photo...that's it

It's all about the single photograph in the end, whether it's from a well planned project or a shot that just happened, only the singular image will remain. When I see a photo hung on a wall I don't ask myself " was this part of a series?", "what was in the frame before or after?", I don't demand to see the contact sheet. I look at the photograph and appreciate it for what it is.

It's hard to decide what "the shot" is and it's especially hard in today's digital world to toss away the rest when "the shot" is selected. I can understand holding onto various photos from a shoot with the idea of possibly compositing them together, "I like her arm her but her expression is wrong," etc., but after all that is it worth keeping the rest?

I constantly go through my hard drives looking through catalogs of photos weeding out the duds. I hope others do the same, I can only imagine in ten or twenty years we'll start to see retrospectives where we get to troll through a photographers hard-drive to view the detritus of his or her career. It may prove insightful to some but in the end, is it not the final image that will stay with us?

One of the reasons I love film is it automatically makes you edit your work, to look for the shot in the roll or rolls of film and print it. Sure, you could do all of them and today, scan all of them, but it's time consuming and there's something about film that just let's you know you found the one. Maybe it's because I know I have the neg and can go back at any time if I change my mind. Maybe it's because, unlike digital, I did not take a gazillion shots and can easily find the best in the meager selection.

The photo above is "the shot" from a roll of film I just developed. I was experimenting with pushing some old FujiFilm Pro 400H to 800, shooting a bunch of random stuff over a few days. On this particular day I was waiting for a bus in the rain on my way to a Marilyn Minter artist's talk downtown. There was something about the way Josie was holding her umbrella, the droplets formin on the top and the light that just screamed out "get out your camera and shot this". I pulled it out, waited for the right moment and took two shots just before our bus arrived. I shot wide open and aimed for the top of the umbrella so the droplets would be in sharp focus.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Black & White Magazine Special Issue 68 Cover and TOC

I was trying to finally put something up on my main site to promote my Excellence Award in B&W Magazine's 2009 Portfolio Contest by "faking" a cover. I became increasingly frustrated trying to match the fonts so I hopped over to their site to grab the proper logo and lo and behold they have the cover of B&W Special Issue 68 on the site already, that's not my photo but I do get four pages starting on page 58. I have to say I'm still floored when I look at all of the names in the table of contents and especially that I am one of fifteen chosen for an Excellence Award. Look for B&W Special Issue 68 at your favorite news stand the first week of June.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

I really wish Jörg Colberg would allow comments on his blog

Maybe I should have asked him why he doesn't while I was at the "Blogging in the Photography Community" panel at NYPH '09. Maybe I should have just said something to him period but to be honest I've only recently began reading Conscientious and I don't really know much about him or his view yet but after reading his review of the NYPH 09 exhibits this morning I get the feeling we think very much alike.

This morning he posted a long and truthful critique of the exhibits at the 2009 New York Photo Festival and I think everything he said was spot on. In fact, over the weekend I posted a comment on Heather Morton's site about how disappointed I was with the festival and I was asked by Ronit Novak to elaborate on what I thought was wrong with this year's festival. In an effort to avoid posting a five paragraph comment on HMAB I carefully whittled down my observations into a few fine points, focusing in on William Ewing's selections but if I had written out my entire thoughts they would be very much the same as Jorg's.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Lens, a new photojournalism blog at NY Times

Lens launched on Friday but is featured on the Times homepage today.
"Lens will be a showcase for the work of Times photographers, but it will also highlight the best images from other newspapers, magazines, news organizations and picture agencies, and from around the Web. It will point readers in the direction of important books, galleries and museum exhibitions. And it will draw on The Times’s own pictorial archive, numbering in the millions of images and going back to the early 20th century."

Very exciting and a wonderful, understated design that really helps the imagery pop off the page, er, screen. Bravo.