In Part 1 of this shoot, we started at a garden center which proved to be a challenging location for me. I think there was just too much stuff in the frame all the time and the fact that it was open to the public made it a bit too busy to create the kind of intimacy that I prefer.
Elle knew a little forest nearby, so that’s where we went. Although it was pretty well visited by joggers and dog walkers, there were some spots where we could work at ease. We started at a little cabin.
The small dirty windows, made for easy, beautiful, soft light. I’ve noticed that I often shy away from these easy lighting situations. It seems just too easy, but that’s my ego that gets in the way. Is there a the part of me that feels like I should leave these situations for beginners or something? Anyway, it’s stupid to avoid easy lighting situations and I’ve been conditioning myself to make good use of them again. A picture doesn’t have to be difficult to make, to be good. And such situations allow me to really focus on my subject and work faster. And just as well, because after a few minutes of shooting a group of retired men arrived at the cabin where they meet up every evening to chat about life. One of them admitted that he also came here to be away from his wife ;-)
We took the least traveled path we could find and it didn’t take long before we were alone again. We only made a couple of shots here, but inspired by the old men we had a great conversation about life. I’ve worked with Elle a couple of times before but didn’t know her all that well. There’s something about a forest that makes meaningful conversations easier. I always say that portraiture for me is not about how someone looks, but about what he/she is like. These unscheduled, unforced chats make that a lot easier. And they make the experience of the shoot more meaningful to both the subject and myself.
In the past I’ve often felt held back by time constraints. There’s only so many hours a client wants to pay for, there’s only so much time the photographer can shoot before he starts to lose money. I pride myself for being able to work fast but I should use that skill to make more time for conversations, rather than to shorten a shoot. In the end we didn’t shoot for that long and it’s not about the amount of hours. I felt liberated by the combination of not having an end time and not feeling the urge to shoot as much as possible. We might have been able to shoot more outfits and locations if we had to, but I don’t think the results would have been better if we had rushed it.
After the forest session, we drove around aimlessly for a while until we found an orchard with some blossoms. I believe we were a week too early for the full bloom, there was basically just one tree who was a bit ahead of the rest.
One of the biggest challenges when working with models for me is their modelling skills. Sure, it’s great when someone knows how to pose, how to work the camera and not be nervous about it. But it also can get in the way of showing their real personality. I believe the chats, the relaxed atmosphere and not having a plan, removed the modeling-barrier and allowed me to capture Elle the woman, instead of Elle, the model.
People are complex and even have conflicting parts within their personality. I believe that nobody can or should be reduced to one single character trait. One of my pet peeves is that people are often pigeonholed as being this or that. The result is that usually you get to see only the public persona of someone, unless you are really close. I always encourage a subject to show different sides of their character. It requires a high degree of trust, vulnerability and courage from the subject’s side. It is truly a gift when someone allows me a look beyond the first layer. And one of my goals is to become better at earning such a gift.
Many year ago, when I traded my extensive Canon gear collection in for a Fujifilm X-Pro1 and a 35mm lens, it was a truly liberating experience. Over time I acquired a lot of Fuji gear too (not to mention all the lighting gear) and I had almost forgotten the joy and creativity you can get out of a small camera and one or two lenses. I only took the X-T3, the 56mm and the 35mm on this shoot and I felt really free.
During the shoot, it was all go with the flow, without thinking too much, exactly how I wanted to do it. But studying the pictures afterwards gives me a bit more insight in what drives me. My favorite pictures from this shoot seem to fall under the category of “wild and free”. That shouldn’t come as a surprise as this “category” houses lots of themes that are dear to me: body positivity, self expression, rebellion, nature, …
Maybe I should be the medium that facilitates my subjects to show their wild side? Maybe that’s the direction to go in?
I’m thinking out loud, I may very well change my mind later on. But that’s the way I have to explore my role in photography right now: grab something that seems worth grabbing and experiment the hell out of it. It may be the wrong direction, but if I don’t go and have a look, I’ll never know.
It felt so great to shoot again, to be creative, to capture the wildness of a soul. Time is still at a premium these days but if you’d like to express your own wild soul, let me know and we’ll see if we can schedule a shoot.