I had an article about my work appear in Photography Monthly this month (June issue). This is the article pretty much as it appeared in the magazine:
LOCATION: The model shots were shot in my studio in Hackney in London and the background components were shot in a car wrecking yard in North London
CAMERA AND LENS: The car parts were shot on film. The settings for an iso 200 speed film were 1/60 at F5.6. The best images were then scanned to high res digital. The studio shots were taken on my Nikon D3x with a 105mm lens and a 50mm lens at a speed of 1/125 and F8.0 at iso 100. The tighter head shots with the 105mm and the wider body shot with the 50mm
LIGHTING: The car parts were shot using natural light and on film. The studio shots were shot with a beauty dish on a 500w head almost directly above the model looking down and another couple of lights (500w flash heads with barn doors) used as rim lights to pull her out of the dark background. With her head tilted back she got a good amount of light on her eyes but with her head in a normal position you can see we got these very deliberate dark shadows under the eyes which add to the air of mystique.
CREATIVE PROCESS: This project was very much collaboration between me and the hair stylist – Andrew Thomas-Corbett. We met a couple of times before the shoot to discuss the concept and inspiration. He was very much inspired by Aleister Crowley’s Thoth book of the Tarot and I have always had a fascination with the Occult so I was very familiar with them. The drawings on them are very beautiful. We also liked HR Geiger’s artwork (the artist who did most of the art direction for the Alien movies). We also looked at Tibetan Mandalas and a few other sources. We wanted to have an industrial feel, a sort of robotic feel but still maintain something of the organic and we wanted them to be sensual and seductive. We explained the concept clearly to the Model so she would be able to interpret our brief with as much information as possible. Our makeup was done by Angela Deviatova.
POST PRODUCTION: For the background I took parts of one of the crashed car images and mirrored it 4 ways. Thus creating a symmetrical mandala effect. The model and the hair required some basic skin cleaning and cleaning up of frizzy bits but Magda (a lovely Polish girl from Leni’s Model Management) had great skin to start with so this didn’t require much work except that it had to be done in triplicate. I normally do final skin work with a dodge and burn on a 50% gray fill layer with blend mode set to ‘Soft Light’. Then I brush with a white or black brush on a low opacity.
The next part is where it got a bit creative and required lots of masks to reveal and hide certain parts of each figure. The patterns on the skin were done with a combination of layers with a multiply blend mode and masks revealing the underlying patterns. To burn in the edges and other areas I didn’t want the viewer to be distracted by, I used a channel mixer layer set to ‘Black and White with Red Filter’, set the blending mode to ‘Multiply’, invert the mask and brush back in the areas you want with a white brush on the opacity you require. A bit complex but it gives you a great degree of control.
Finally when I’m happy, I’ll output the .jpeg and run a sharpen filter on it. I don’t like to have merged layers in my .psd file while I’m working. Non-destructive editing is the order of the day. The final series of images were exhibited in a Gallery in Bethnal Green just before Christmas 2009.
Much thanks due to Crash Taylor for the initial coverage on his site and for arranging the publication with Photography Monthly.
You can see a few more of the images from the series on this post and some more information about them too.