I enjoy PHOTO PROFESSIONAL MAGAZINE. An article titled “The Four Season” by Editor Terry Hope caught my eye in the recent issue (#96) about the shooting of a contact lens advertisement for ACUVUE. The layout is shown on the left hand page in the photo below. The photos on the right side accompany the article and show some phases of the production. You can see that about a half dozen people were involved. The end product resulted in two photographs, a beach version and winter snow version, which were downloaded to a computer to be stitched in making the final advertisement image.
This image caught my eye, because the essential layout in a box is what I used in the creation of two bodies of my photographic artwork, the Fossil and the Aurora with Eos series.
Below from the archives is one of my (still to be named) Fossil Series photographs. The inspiration behind these photos is the thought of being an archeologist excavating in (let’s say) Pompeii and uncovering perfectly preserved human fossil, and what can be more beautiful than the female form.
I was on my own in this creative endeavor, beginning with building the 10X10 foot wood framed box in a forest between two shade trees. One evening I filled it with about a foot and half or five truckloads of sand from a beach a few miles away from the location. Tying a thick rope between the trees about 20 feet up allowed the placement of a ladder from where I could shot down into the box, using a medium format camera. I also hung sheets around to tent the area from excessive sun rays.
After all this was set up I would dig out a trench. For one of my favorites, the “backside fossil” (http://jamesschotgallerystudio.com/gallery/james-schot/fossil-series/) my model Cleveland lay face down and breathed through a buried tube for about twenty minutes. To avoid sand cracks I asked her to keep her breathing as light as possible, while I put sand back over her and sculpted it with a broom to contours I liked. Then with camera in hand I climbed up the ladder and took my shots.
The abstract photographs of Aurora w/Eos Series can best deliver their awesome impact when viewed as brightly backlit 10X20/20×20 FOOT displays in a fifty foot lobby of a skyscraper. Photography is most often managing and capturing reflected light. What inspired me to do the Aurora’s is the definition of photography as painting with light, as in creating, controlling, and managing light. For my artwork this has been, is and always will be the joyful pursuit and photographic challenge. A piece of film in the past, a digital file today is always an empty canvas for me and this time I wanted to paint it completely by my hand with light to be captured by my camera. For photography that is literally an abstract idea.
Sometime in the late 1990’s I came up with the idea of making a light wand with a small beam focusing lens that could do what I wanted. Unfortunately, at the time I was without a Studio to serve as the other part of the equation, which is the ability to work in complete darkness apart from light emitted from the light wand. Yes, this required a lot of feeling my way around in the darkness.
The most challenging one to create in the series was one named the “Vitruvian Angel” (shown below) representing my photographic version of Leonardo de Vinci’s drawing the Vitruvian Man. Other small thumbnail versions can be found at http://jamesschotgallerystudio.com/gallery/james-schot/aurora-with-eos/. Like the Fossil series, they (as well the Body Parts series) were also set up and taken in a box made out of heavy construction Styrofoam. For the Aurora’s the box was filled with material in where model, Karen Beal, would immerse herself in different positions.
In the box, I painted her with light using the light wand I made with a focusing lens and adapted to one of my existing studio lights. The technique was to either use circles of X’s as my painters’ stroke. I would make the pass over her (and the material in which she laid) four times using a different color filter each time, usually yellow/amber, blue, green, red or purple.
Those of you familiar with light and lighting know that different colors transmit at different wavelengths (speeds). Yellow/Amber will transmit far more easily than green. Therefore, when using yellow/amber I would do a slow fifty count (1001, 1002…1050). For the green I would need a two hundred and fifty count. I experimented and came up with the right count for the different colors I would be using. [Also through experimentation I learned how to make those color light bursts in the material.]
The camera was fixed to a ceiling grid pointed at the box (of course) with the lens focal length and focus preset. A remote control cable was attached and when I was ready to begin painting I would open the shutter. When finished I would close the shutter. Doing so is important for long exposures, and these ran about 30 minutes, during which time any extraneous ambient or standby lights on equipment could affect the outcome.
What made the Vitruvian Angel the most challenging of the series was duplicating photographically, in a single exposure, the dual positions of the arms and legs as Leonardo had drawn the Vitruvian Man. To successfully pull this off in my painting with light in this Aurora I had to rely on the photographic fact that whatever is dark-black will not expose. This fact allows for multiple exposures to work, or otherwise as in this case, allowed me to come back during a single exposure to light areas that had been blocked in darkness. A little more detail will help to expose this process.
I began taking the photograph with the arms down and the legs closed. For the positions where the arms would be up and the legs spread I needed to place the right material to help me in avoiding light spills in the areas where those extremities would end up for the 2nd painting. Through experimenting using dark brown, grey, and black absorbing velvet cut to the size of Karen’s arms and legs, it turned out that I found grey to work best. Remember that extraneous light I mentioned above? It was strong enough over the span of this long, single exposure to make black too prominent in the final 45 minute exposure, and the brown velvet also failed the test.
For the 2nd painting I removed the grey fabric and placed her arms and legs in the up and spread positions where the grey fabric had been to finish the photography.
This was the first art series I photographed with a digital camera, but the process would have been similar if using film. It may disgruntle some that I emphasize that the essence of my artwork and stock-art is created in camera, and therefore I feel comfortable calling it photographic art or photographs, respectively. If it had been created by feeding photographs into a computer to be combined and manipulated, I no longer call the output a photograph, but an image or in my word a “compugraph.”
I’m unable to visualize the Fossils, Auroras and my other artwork successfully created in a computer. They’d suffer from too much perfection and lose their organic visual sense. Computer generated images from photographs can be masterful in creating intricate artistic social statements and fanciful dreamscapes, or be extremely useful in commercial applications, such as the Acuvue advertisement. I likewise apply it to all my commercial assignments, but my art or historically encapsulating StockArt (http://jamesschotgallerystudio.com/stock-art/) are taken within the traditional methods of photography established through end of the film era. So there you have it – thinking outside the box to create things inside the box photographically.
Thank you for your attention, James Schot
James has a large body of art and stock art and welcomes invitations from museums around the world to display and share his extraordinary photographs. Please contact him through the contact information below.