The recent passing of one of my primary sources of inspiration spurred me to do something - something that would hopefully honour the man who had helped fuel my creative drive in a number of directions.
Over the years Marc Lagrange, and a number of other photographers including Peter Lindbergh and Paolo Roversi have provided me with a very high bar to step up to. Why these guys? I guess their base technique and mine are the same in that they use film - large format as well as medium format, they shoot a lot of black and white and they are primarily portrait photographers. Beyond the medium, they all concentrate on a certain 'essential' quality of beauty. A quality which stands far above and beyond the common heavy-handed retouched sculpted fashion or beauty look lit by high power studio strobes. It's a quality that Lindbergh made famous back in the late eighties when he began shooting high fashion models (who were to become the first 'super models') his way - without the glam façade, often using a 35mm camera, some black and white film and no retouching. Check some of his early (and recent) images of Kate Moss for some fine examples.
What is that quality of beauty that resides beyond the high power studio strobe and front page of the latest women's mag? It can't be described, can't be reduced to language - but it can be photographed.
Sometimes I get a glimpse of it behind the eyes of the subject like some hidden candle quietly flickering. At other times it shines briefly out of the form and skin of the subject in some particular state of poise. When I see it, it transcends everything that is happening at that point in time. It engulfs me completely with its wild and primal quality and I always know the resultant images will be on the mark.
What else? In practical terms, it's usually fleeting and it's hard to photograph - not necessarily because it's short lived but more that it's impossible to predict when that inner light will shine. Sometimes there's a series of short events that lead to it happening and I can almost predict it, but not quite. The photographers mentioned above are masters at photographing it and their portfolios contain an abundance of these magic captured moments of true beauty.
Marc Lagrange recently passed away in a tragic accident - one of those accidents that should have never happened. He's left behind him a body of work that will live forever, and in doing so, will continue to inspire and expose the wild and innate core of ourselves. He's been a major source of inspiration for my own work, especially since September last year when I went back to using a large format camera and concentrating more on portraiture. Marc's work with an 8x10" camera, both on negative film and original Polaroid film, is the best example of the style of portraiture. I seemed to be automatically gravitating in this direction by simply taking a step backward to using my old faithful 4x5" camera. Check Marc's Polarized series which was shot exclusively on the original Polaroid film in 8x10" format.
Yeah I know, the camera doesn't matter. I've said that myself. But it actually does matter when your whole workflow has to change to incorporate the use of it. As a result, the image at the end of that process changes too.
The shoot I did that incorporated inspiration from Marc Lagrange was done with model Anne Duffy, Burton Yuen Hair and Makeup with Thomas Pospieszny as assist and Gina from GIAN Styling. I'll cover that in the next article...