Intermission - again

Let's face it, it's easy, very easy, to take what would be called good pictures when you have a beautiful woman in front of the lens. If she's nude, added bonus for the popularity of your shot. It's a different story to take a 'great' picture though, no matter who's in front of the lens. I've been spending a lot of time thinking about this lately with regard to my own direction and development.

Instagram is evidence of the above. Millions and millions of images of beautiful young women looking out at me. But what are they saying? That's the question for me - and that question is for the photographer who took the shot, not for the model. "What did you want your muse to say, or express FOR YOU, with this shot?" Or, if it's TFP, the question would be: "What did you AND your muse want to say, or express FOR YOU BOTH, with this shot?" She's nude, so what. What are YOU saying by having her nude? What is SHE saying by BEING nude?

My own Instagram feed is evidence of all of the above too. Plenty of shots of incredibly beautiful women looking out or striking some model pose. In some shots I've managed to say something, but in many it hasn't worked as well as it could. That's fine. It's a path. A path of development - and with shots that haven't worked it hasn't usually been due to the model - the result reflects on me directly. I feel like starting gain and doing a Frank Petronio - delete all and start again. That would be something. Sound like I'm jaded? I am, but I'm happy with that because without feeling that way I wouldn't be able to move forward with any great motivation.

As photographers, we often let the model go, we let the model do their thing - but that's their thing, and so it's their photograph, not ours. This aspect I've worked hard on over the last 8 months and I do feel some progress there. I've managed to assert my style and a limited amount of art on the photograph and achieved this without too much direction. So it's a delicate situation. How do you get the model to do what you'd like them to do without directing them? For me, it has to work and be organic for both parties, even if I'm paying the model. It's about investment and passion, not money. (I've run a number of workshops on this and continue to mentor other photographers post workshop through this tricky phase of development - this is almost as challenging to me as it is to them!).

For a while I'm trying hard to get some distance from social media, particularly Instagram, while I work more on developing some ideas. It's almost impossible to have that personal dialogue when I'm interacting either directly or indirectly with a world full of Instagram people and their 'Like' buttons. No one 'likes' my personal blog posts so I'm free here :)

So it's back to the drawing board. Researching photographers who I admire, looking at their development, methods etc. Researching models, looking at what they think, how they interact with their photographer (see Nick Knight's series on contemporary fashion photography through the eyes of the model). But then also working completely alone, sitting down in the sun with a beer or cup of tea and a pad and pen - along with longer bike rides, bush runs and dodging magpies. Creating ideas out of my own head, keywords, music and an environment that will help develop these ideas eventually into photographs.

That has to be magic surely? The creative process. Blurry and transient fleeting brain mirages connected to emotions and thoughts - slowly realised and transformed into actual photographs.

From the Edge. Anne Duffy.

True Colours

A few years ago I started a series of work called 'True Colours'. It's portraiture, as real and true as I can do it. It's an exploration on my behalf - a view of beauty which is deeper than surface physicality, a view of beauty which exists behind the veil we all erect in front of ourselves - largely for protective purposes. 

I see my job as a portrait photographer to see through this veil. This is confronting for many of the people I photograph, and I get that. My explorations over the last few years have demanded more and more of the people I photograph, and they have given me so much. They've given me themselves. This in itself is really so beautiful, and a complete gift in my life. It's one thing for a subject or model to remove their clothing and stand naked before my camera but it's another ballgame for them to drop their veil. That's true nudity, true nakedness. Often I witness both at the same time, physical and emotional nudity.

Trust

It involves huge amounts of trust and connection between myself and the model. This is another immensely rewarding but also challenging dimension to this work. Essentially I'm asking people to be themselves for me. My usual subjects are models and this is understandably hard for a model, usually. Models have a model identity, they have a brand and their model persona is intrinsically linked to that brand, It's how a model makes ends meet out of their passion and profession. So when confronted with a photographer who doesn't so much want the model persona, the model pose, the model expression, then I often get asked, "well what do you want me to do?" It always works out OK. We always end up getting great pictures. So something's working. But don't ask me what it is.

There's actually a number of ways this type of work can be done. There's the completely raw approach but there's also a way that utilises a model's talent at expressing emotion. For me, to be able to photograph authentic emotion, if the model can act it convincingly, then the job is done. What sort of emotion? Anything human, anything that makes us human - it's all that stuff that for me makes great pictures. It could be sensuality or sexual provocation - fantastically human traits and stories there. It could be happiness. It could be melancholy, reflection, or even intense sadness. 

So two more things:

  • I really want to thank the women who bother to collaborate with me. The women who drop everything on the ground before me, for the sake of art, for the sake of capturing a beautiful moment on film. A simple thing, but not one that I take lightly or underestimate. Thank you.
     
  • I got to this level of thinking after finishing the edit on this video which was shot in April this year. The model is Laneikka Denne. What she did for this video cannot be underestimated, and for me, it's not just another shoot. She took herself into a dark and sad place so that I could film it. Laneikka has quie extensive acting experience, so she drew on that in order to do this.

The video was shot at the end of our first shoot - and believe it or not this was Laneikka's first photoshoot. And guess what? We ended up getting a beautiful fashion set published to Elegant magazine during that shoot. See it here: http://www.magcloud.com/browse/issue/1310120 

Related blog posthttp://www.mikestacey.com/blog/2017/5/22/laneikka

Laniekka:

The Video

This video, for me is an extension of my exploration into portraiture. An extension of the True Colours works. The video also marks an important intermission in my work.

Featuring LANEIKKA (https://www.instagram.com/grunge_chil...)
Video and Edit: Mike Stacey
Music: "Everyone Wants to be Found" - by Fabrizio Paterlini

Filmed in Sydney, April 2017
Part of an ongoing exploration...

August Newsletter

Danielle

Model: Danielle

Danielle’s only been modelling for a month or two and had only done a couple of shoots prior to ours. One of her fave photographers is Kesler Tran so we were off to a good start. I asked her to put a mood board together, which she did, and I couldn’t have done a better one myself. It was perfectly in-line with my own style. Not that everything has to hinge around what I want to do but for TFP to work well for both parties it has to be done one of two ways:

  1. Shoot together – one style, one look, vibe, feel, aesthetic. To do this means you both want the exact same images at the end.
  2. Shoot two or more sets – one for photographer and one for model. In that case they’re probably two slightly different styles.

I hear of many photographers abusing the TFP privilege and just shooting what they want – or at least expecting to only shoot that. For some reason, there are photographers who think they're above having to pay - ever. That sucks bad, especially when the photographer's skill is questionable and the images that result are essentially the result of a very talented model. 

The absolute perfect way to shoot as far as I’m concerned is in artistic collaboration with a like-minded model/muse. You both put in 50/50 in terms of ideas and motivation. You are BOTH invested in the outcome. You BOTH suggest things and work collaboratively at shoot time. You bounce things around during the shoot and communicate. This is a very rewarding way to work and usually results in amazing stills or video. Chances of publication are also increased, which is an added bonus (and motivator) for both parties. It’s the way I normally work unless I have a specific project in mind and know a model who can do that particular thing really well – then I’ll happily pay for the model’s time and skill.

Tangent finished now. Back to Danielle.

Point is I could see Danielle and I were in aesthetic alignment by the mood board she made for our shoot. It was going to work. And it did.

Even with her very limited experience in front of the camera, I could see angles and glimpses from her handful of portfolio images that she would be able to do the images we'd planned to do.

She brought a bundle of wardrobe with her and we mixed and matched to get some slightly varied looks.

When the wind was blowing Dani's hair around, she started moving it back off her face. Apparently most photographers don't like hair over the face? After a while she got used to just letting it go and even moving her head slightly to get the effect where one eye is covered.

Danielle was an absolute joy to work with. Quiet, humble, totally invested and connected in the moment. I’m looking forward to the next time.

Zoe

Model: Zoe Rayne

Zoe was keen to shoot some pictures with BB, her ’69 VW Bug. She’s selling her soon and wanted some nice visual memories with her. I looked at the colour of BB and was in love right away – an old vintage blue, colours like that just don’t exist anymore. So some Portra 400 would be perfect as blue is rendered amazingly well by Portra. And, Zoe was keen to only shoot film – even better!

We headed up to a spot I know well but have never shot in. There’s some big pines and grassy paddocks where the car could be parked in various lighting conditions for some variety. It was one of those perfect days – Spring weather in Winter. It was fun shooting in, on and around a car, they’re actually the perfect studio with almost any kind of lighting available as long as you’re prepared to shift the car every now and then.

I’d forgotten how small these cars really are. We had one just like this as a family car, 2 adults 2 kids. Not sure if an average family could do that now? People were thinner in those days I think. It’s perfect for Zoe though cause she’s tiny so seeing her driving it is cool, cause it fits her perfectly.

Zoe hadn’t modelled for quite a while so it was a great way for her to get back in front of the camera but it’s obvious from the pictures she has a great presence and look with the most amazing eyes. I love shooting portraits with her for these traits of hers plus she just fun and easy to hang with.

We shot quite a few serious shots.

And some not so serious...

We shot 8 rolls of 120 and 1 of 35mm all up. Still scanning and editing this set but I totally enjoyed shooting this little story. Why? Cause it was fun and it was real.

 

Ivy

Model: Ivy Rose Raven

I've been working with Ivy longer than any other model. What we do works so well, she knows what my aesthetic tastes are, and she can do it very very well.

Ivy's one of those women completely empowered by their sexuality and it's exactly that that I love to photograph in her. To see that level of control and pride in any person, whether it's related to sexuality or some other trait, is essentially just humanity - and it's very powerful subject matter - for me anyway.

The first shots in the story were shot out in the elevator. These were shot on digital as I wanted that 'flash' paparrazzi effect. They'll be changed to B&W for the final set but the colour is pretty amazing.

The story we shot was designed to be sophisticated, classy and sexy but also edgy. Girl comes home, starts thinking, relaxing, drinking, clothes come off bit by bit, she moves from loungeroom to bedroom, and she chills...

Ivy has some great wardrobe for this kind for thing too, including a custom-made corset. What she does with makeup too is pretty amazing. The one thing she didn't have were stay-ups. So I went to 5th floor "Intimates" section at David Jones in the CBD before the shoot and perused the shelves with some uneasy looking women and got what we needed.

The first shots in the elevator were interesting. Ivy's left hand is on the door button to keep that door open. Initially we'd thought that the doors would stay open after just pressing the button once. Nup. Doors closed and Ivy disappeared downstairs somewhere - lucky we didn't go for the nude look in the elevator.

The full set of images we shot won't be released willy nilly to Instagram or whatever - I honestly feel they're too good for that. The continuous stream of imagery through social media channels really tends to nullify any kind of depth that may be there in the images. People aren't interested in looking for more than a second or two so what hope is there of conveying a story line and some meaning beyond the physicality and instant gratification that most social media people want? Instagram is probably the absolute worst platform to view photography - in terms of the resolution and lack of control over how the image is displayed. And then on top of that there's the censorship...

We shot nearly all the images on film and I spent more time than usual being a little more precise about things in general. I'm thrilled with the results.

Unedited straight off the scanner glass, except for the censor bar. Full edited version and more in Issue #2 of Vanilla Life magazine.

 

Vanilla Life

Today I sent the file off to the printer. I only sent out for a small number of copies in case something's not right. I've used this printer for two other magazines, but they were one off jobs done years ago so I had to relearn the magazine workflow, and also get some new software to output the right sized pdf file. They say I'll have the magazines by 11th September, then I'll be contacting those who've expressed their interest and sending them out! Cost will be $24.95 (not including shipping), and no I'm not making a huge profit, almost zero actually but that means nothing - this isn't about money.  My commercial photography has nothing to do with what I do artistically - and I'd hate money to come into come into the equation for as far as the art is concerned.

The title of the mag? Has a lot to do with some shit that happened years ago in my own life - when I first started shooting nudes actually. 

Here's some title pages from the mag...

Next?

Actually got some ambitious plans... Stay tuned. 

 

 

'Tog' - by Frank Petronio

NOTE: I don't support Frank's political views. This article and my appreciation is based on photography and art alone - separate from politics. The review is about his photography, not his politics

Pasteurised, homogenised, sanitised aren't words you can apply to the work of Frank Petronio. In a scene where social acceptability is the norm, for either PC, commercial or religious reasons, Frank's views and methods on photography are refreshing, and insightful. It's kind of nice when someone has something to say, and they don't give a shit what you think when they say it. There's a part of me that enjoys that kind of disregard as long as it's someone who has the photographic runs on the board. 

Frank was the first photographer I followed way back in Tumblr days before Fart Book and Insta Gratification were the profundities they are now. He had a booming Tumblr account, lots of dedicated followers then one day he was gone, account deleted, archives trashed. Brings back memories of Brian Duffy's (The Man Who Shot the Sixties)  response when he found there was no toilet paper in his studio - he set fire to his entire collection of negatives and slides. Such an apt response. On a side note: Frank's work and Brian's are similar in more ways than their ability to trash the past and start again.

When I moved from landscapes and architecture to shooting humans around 10 years ago, there were many inspirations. Most were photographers who imbued something of themselves in their work and took an active part in the picture-making process. They had something to say and they said it. People like Penn, Duffy and Avedon, who were first and foremost brilliant portrait photographers.

Later on I found Frank's work. Initially I liked the fact he bothered shooting large format with human subjects but pretty quickly I saw what he was really doing. This was great, and fresh. Franks is, above all, a story teller and portrait photographer. He's a brilliant writer, adept with language and wordage, and that story-telling talent is also manifested via his camera in a visual sense. That's a powerful talent.

So the tech side. Much of the work in the book is film, much of that has been shot on 4x5 or a few 5x7 and 8x10 as well. Boggles my mind how you shoot journo style, dynamic situations with a camera like that. A level of dedication not to mention skill, required in abundance. But it's all there, warts and all. 

This was supposed to be a book review. Well, it is kind of. I recently bought Frank's book, "Tog". Any young photographers out there thinking of toeing socially acceptable commercial norms, or young photographers toeing socially unacceptable norms thinking that's cool, or for any older photographers who can't see beyond the glam, or any photographer for that matter, check Frank's book out.

Thanks for the inspiration Frank. And keep pushing those seemingly increasing social boundaries. There aren't many who are. But if you get deleted, let me know where you are.

By the way, Frank's on Instagram now, but maybe not for long...

@petroniofrank

This is his blurb:

"For ten years I traveled America photographing interesting amateur and alternative models who I met via social media. My photos are arranged chronologically so you can see the progression of my technique and attitude. Models include Alysha Nett, Hanna Grace, Hattie Watson, twins Meagan and Melody Sample, Nettie Harris, Sash, and many more. I am quite happy with the book design, it is not just another repetitive centered photo portfolio. Blurb's production quality is much improved in recent years.... Profit is set to zero and this is the fifth and hopefully final design and copy iteration. Oh and half the work is large format film, 20% is color, and 10% are kind of naked NSFW."

"Available through Blurb at http://www.blurb.com/b/7433171-togfor $107.29 plus shipping (look for frequently offered 25-40% promotion codes). Blurb also has an excellent full-length online preview (Flash-based) that you can view full screen."

 

 

July Newsletter - Genevieve, Sylph Sia, Sass-Kia

Genevieve

July kicked off with a shoot with Genevieve out on the Sydney coast at my fave spot. Perfect Winter weather as usual, and working with a model of the calibre of Genevieve made for an amazing afternoon.

Genevieve hadn't shot many portraits previously but who would know? She was so comfortable in front of the camera and her performance background in gymnastics I'm sure helped her move freely and in an uninhibited way. 

I'm so happy with that shot. The light on Genevieve's skin, her poise and expression, her hair, the slight wind movement in her hair... 

Shooting portraits like this is always a result of a great collaboration - it just can't be done without that creative connection. It's not like shooting anything else and needs to be more connected. I'm always so grateful for the chance to create in this way with like-minded souls and Genevieve was so lovely to work with.

I love the expression that Genevieve invested into these shots. She really gave it everything.

This next shot was one of the last few of the day. We were walking back from where we'd shot the video, and as we were talking I noticed Genevieve's form with this amazing backlight. So we got the gear out again and did this last set with Genevieve in full flight.

Video - A Short Winter Story

On the spur of the moment I asked Genevieve is she'd like to do a video. "Yeah of course". So in a very impromptu way, we did this...

 

Sylph Sia

Sylph was in Sydney for a two week tour so we hooked up and I arranged a cool warehouse-style apartment in Chippendale to shoot in. I'd shot here before a couple of times and the light was pretty special.

Shooting with Sylph is always something I look forward to - there's a great confidence there because I know we're going to walk away with something special. The following are only a few of the images we did as most are still in edit.

We shot a range of material from edgy-lingerie-sensual to T-shirt polaroids. These Polaroids were actually Fuji FP100C, which people call Polaroid but the true Polaroid fill film was discontinued February 8, 2008. That film was really something special. For some good examples see the work of Marc Lagrange - his series Polarized. What that film did with skin tone was something else. For colour Polaroids, shot on 8x10 also, see the work of Paolo Roversi. The colours that Paolo got from the Polaroid colour film were truly sublime - virtually no primarys at all, perfect.

We shot some pretty edgy content using a sheer top that I'd brought with me. Sylph had some ideas for the top so we did it. Those images will probably be for her Patreon page and for my "Vanilla Life" magazine, which will be out soon.

Of course we shot some film too. Portrait-sensual style. Just my thing.

One of my fave portraits is the one below. Sylph's presence and poise is something else.

More images coming from this shoot!

 

Sass-Kia

Last time we shot together, Sass had mentioned wanting to do a video where she could express herself using her dance skills. So we arranged to shoot out at a new spot which I'd scoped on Google Earth the week before. Sass had actually been close to the spot I had in mind previously, so she knew the way down through the cliffs - that was handy. We walked around and got to the spot I was thinking of pretty easily, but I wouldn't try it at high tide!

This shoot was mainly all video and the main video is still in edit - and that will be for Sass-Kia's Patreon page. But I put together a short portrait-style video also...

That video was shot at my usual location out at Cape Banks, which we walked over to after shooting the main video.

Here's some stills too. We had such a blast, Sass was getting into the dancing in such a happy way, the vibe was really cool for the whole day - and these stills reflect that. There's no fake smiles or laughter, it's real. And wonderfully human.

And here's some film... and I love the out of focus feel...

The purists will say, "But it's out of focus" - yep sure is.

Wrapped Up

So that's July. Only 3 shoots, but a lot of video in there which is a lot of work usually - plus a few commercial gigs and a full time job - things have been hectic but I wouldn't have it any other way.