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Untitled #1 (some mild nudity)

Asher Kelman

OPF Owner/Editor-in-Chief
Kim Weston was invited to the memorial get together for Per Volquarz. I realized days before that only a few photographers would book time and so I was going to be stuck with most of the cost. So I decided to use the opportunity of having two models to sketch out ideas for a new series.

So here's the prototype taken with the 5DII and the 24 mm T/S II and natural light.




Asher Kelman: Untitled #1

Oceana, California February 2012

Larva, left and Marcia, Right


I'd love your impressions and experience with this. I am planning to repeat the series of pictures made digitally with film. Thanks for looking at my work.


Asher
 
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Jerome Marot

Well-known member
The instant I first saw this, I thought "Velasquez". Something like this:


Probably the opulence of the fabric onto which the models rest made me think of these classical paintings.

This aside, there are a few points which distract me in your picture, in particular the rather stiff pose of the clad model lying on her back. I find the clutter at the top of the image distracting. And I am not so sure about the perspective given by the elevated point of view.
 

Asher Kelman

OPF Owner/Editor-in-Chief
Thanks so much, Jerome for your thoughts. For sure Velasquez would have softened the pose of Larva the "stiff model" I appreciate the points about, "the clutter". I wanted the models to be comfortable and to decrease the slope in front of me. Larva was made to be as she is and Marcia, on the right as she is. I certainly was not inspired by this picture then to make the poses. However, from now on, your idea will not be erasable from my mind as his painting is so beautiful and open. Somewhere in the series I'll be influenced by your gift, for sure.

I guess I need a rig to have the camera suspended over them, LOL! With digital, that's not a problem. With LF, it's much trickier. I may end up using a mirror at 45 degrees!

Asher
 

Doug Kerr

Well-known member
Hi, Asher,

Greetings from Alamogordo, N.M. *, where we will in a few hours consummate the purchase of our new home.

Kim Weston was invited to the memorial get together for Per Volquarz. I realized days before that only a few photographers would book time and so I was going to be stuck with most of the cost. So I decided to use the opportunity of having two models to sketch out ideas for a new series.
I think it's very nice.

The "stiffness" of the "layer 1" model seems to me just to delineate a contrast between the two subjects. Some might read into it some uneasiness of that participant, but I don't feel compelled to make that inference.

I am planning to rest the pictures made digitally with film.
They probably deserve a rest. It is hard work being made digitally with film.

Thanks for sharing this really nice work.

Best regards,

Doug

* We note that "NM" is the postal designation for the state of New Mexico, and is only appropriate for use in a mailing address or equivalent. Good journalistic style eschews the use of these in normal text. The AP Stylebook suggests that in running text the name of the state be spelled out, except in the case of states having longer names, in which case abbreviations of the state name (as contrasted to the postal state designations) should be used. New Mexico is one such state.​
 

Asher Kelman

OPF Owner/Editor-in-Chief
I think it's very nice.

The "stiffness" of the "layer 1" model seems to me just to delineate a contrast between the two subjects. Some might read into it some uneasiness of that participant, but I don't feel compelled to make that inference.
Exactly, there's a contrast between the two and thanks for your kind comments.


They probably deserve a rest. It is hard work being made digitally with film.
ROTFWL!

I'm glad you noticed that. What was supposed to be typed, was not one word "rest". This was my idea. Large format photography is expensive for trials and developing ideas. A digital camera can be a sketchpad for ideas. I discovered this when shooting ultra large format Polaroid film. A 20 x 24 sheet of film cost, (when it was freely available), $50 per exposure! So I snapped away with my Canon digicam and when the peak satisfaction arrived, I released the shutter of the 20x24 camera.

So now I feel comfortable doing the same with 8x10 film. I want the pictures to be approached within 10 inches and still be perfect. I also want to make pictures that do not need any photoshop enhancements. So that's the path I'm on and why I'm using film. Film I feel has a connection with the original scene such that the scene images itself in the medium. That's what I'm aiming for.

Asher
 

Jerome Marot

Well-known member
There certainly is a contrast between the poses of the two models, but the pose of the clad one looks somewhat contrived to my eye: here feet are tense, yet she appears to be sleeping. That is unnatural: when one sleeps, the feet are not in straight line with the legs.

(Of course I know that experienced models are taught to keep their feet in that position when possible, because the pose usually looks nicer.)
 

Asher Kelman

OPF Owner/Editor-in-Chief
There certainly is a contrast between the poses of the two models, but the pose of the clad one looks somewhat contrived to my eye: here feet are tense, yet she appears to be sleeping. That is unnatural: when one sleeps, the feet are not in straight line with the legs.

(Of course I know that experienced models are taught to keep their feet in that position when possible, because the pose usually looks nicer.)
Jerome, that's a good point. I really do appreciate that honesty. The experience of the viewer is important to me. I love my work but am very open to understanding what in the picture might move folk positively. I must also accept feedback. then, on what might make them uncomfortable. Awkwardness is not part of my intent! But if it was I'd try to convey it definitively. Here, I believe, at least, she was really relaxed, but that doesn't help, if you do not perceive her so!

So thanks again for your impression and the point of awkwardness. I value that a lot.

Asher
 

John Wolf

New member
Asher,

The photograph strikes me as very well executed technically. Not sure if this is because I'm scrutinizing the lighting, but my eye is drawn to the shadow cast by the top woman on the bottom woman's right side/arm. I'm no lighting expert, but if there is a way to eliminate only that shadow....

Of the bottom woman, I love the pose, face, and especially her feet. I feel her state of rest. And I like very much the delicate touch of their hands.

At first I agreed with Jerome about a slight awkwardness of the pose of top woman. But, looking deeper and more philosophically, they strike me as the same person--the bottom girl unconscious or dreaming as another persona emerges. Viewed that way, the seemingly rising, unfolding top pose feels right, like a crysallis emerging. No idea what your intent is, but that's how I interpret the scene. (My mind tends to run with such things.)

A well-done, thought-provoking photograph.

John
 

Asher Kelman

OPF Owner/Editor-in-Chief
Asher,

The photograph strikes me as very well executed technically. Not sure if this is because I'm scrutinizing the lighting, but my eye is drawn to the shadow cast by the top woman on the bottom woman's right side/arm. I'm no lighting expert, but if there is a way to eliminate only that shadow....
"So here's the prototype taken with the 5DII and the 24 mm T/S II and natural light."




Asher Kelman: Untitled #1

Oceana, California February 2012


The only help I had was from Hugo Zhang holding a reflector on the left of me and unfortunately it didn't relight the area you are concerned about. Shadows could be opened up when I look at the RAW image and make a file for printing. Thanks for pointing that out.

I can fix any such hard shadows next time using a giant diffuser for the sunlight and reflectors on stands for the side. For film, the image is more rigid unless one scans and retouches which I am trying to avoid. So lighting is the key!

Of the bottom woman, I love the pose, face, and especially her feet. I feel her state of rest. And I like very much the delicate touch of their hands.
Thanks,

She's an experienced model who has worked 11 years with Annie Leibovitz, so she should be that good.

At first I agreed with Jerome about a slight awkwardness of the pose of top woman.
Hmm! I thought that Jerome felt that the legs of the lower model might be interpreted as awkward and she was not resting, but posing!

There certainly is a contrast between the poses of the two models, but the pose of the clad one looks somewhat contrived to my eye: here feet are tense, yet she appears to be sleeping. That is unnatural: when one sleeps, the feet are not in straight line with the legs.

(Of course I know that experienced models are taught to keep their feet in that position when possible, because the pose usually looks nicer.)
I think I need to look again at my model and see if I can predict this ambiguity of position. Obviously, it can trigger entirely opposite experiences.

But, looking deeper and more philosophically, they strike me as the same person--the bottom girl unconscious or dreaming as another persona emerges. Viewed that way, the seemingly rising, unfolding top pose feels right, like a crysallis emerging. No idea what your intent is, but that's how I interpret the scene. (My mind tends to run with such things.)
Thanks so much. This is a new insight and also creative!

A well-done, thought-provoking photograph.

John
Kind of you!

Asher
 

John Wolf

New member
I think I need to look again at my model and see if I can predict this ambiguity of position. Obviously, it can trigger entirely opposite experiences. Asher
Just my interpretation, mind you, and I'm prone to reading into things--maybe more than I should.

John
 

Asher Kelman

OPF Owner/Editor-in-Chief
Just my interpretation, mind you, and I'm prone to reading into things--maybe more than I should.

John
Your interpretation of the dressed model is the same as mine. so we're on the same wavelength there, but the more input I get, the better I understand how folks read the picture.

Asher
 

Nicolas Claris

Administrator/Moderator
Bonjour Asher
we need to see more to get a better idea of your intent!
I'm sure there are some shots with different angles, lighting and models poses…
C'mon!
 

Asher Kelman

OPF Owner/Editor-in-Chief
Here's another shot:




Asher Kelman: Untitled #2

Oceano California 2012

Larva, left and Marcia, right


Looking forward to you delight and regrets!

Asher
 
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Jerome Marot

Well-known member
The feeling is completely different. Here, it looks like the clad model is protecting the naked one. That impression is reinforced by the light: her face, having moved a bit, looks older. It almost gives the impression of a mother-daughter relationship (or maybe older to younger sister).
 

Asher Kelman

OPF Owner/Editor-in-Chief
The feeling is completely different. Here, it looks like the clad model is protecting the naked one. That impression is reinforced by the light: her face, having moved a bit, looks older. It almost gives the impression of a mother-daughter relationship (or maybe older to younger sister).
Thanks for this interpretation. We are getting to some of the sense of my efforts. It's an exploration of the reading of relationships. Something goes between two people.

Asher
 

Asher Kelman

OPF Owner/Editor-in-Chief


Asher Kelman: Untitled #3

Oceano California 2012

Larva, left and Marcia, right
 
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Nicolas Claris

Administrator/Moderator
Bonjour Asher

I am at Marseille airport returning for a full day shoot (all with the Pentax 645D!) of the Sense 55 interiors, a brand new (and beautiful sailing boat built by Bénéteau), flying back to Bordeaux, then after a very few hours at the office I'll fly to Paris for the annual meeting of the French Federation Nautical Industry (I'm member of the board).
I'll be back Wednesday, so please allow me some time to study your image in depth before I post comments ;)
 

Asher Kelman

OPF Owner/Editor-in-Chief
Bonjour Asher

I am at Marseille airport returning for a full day shoot (all with the Pentax 645D!) of the Sense 55 interiors, a brand new (and beautiful sailing boat built by Bénéteau), flying back to Bordeaux, then after a very few hours at the office I'll fly to Paris for the annual meeting of the French Federation Nautical Industry (I'm member of the board).
I'll be back Wednesday, so please allow me some time to study your image in depth before I post comments ;)

Be safe, Nicolas, my good friend! I hope the Pentax is not too heavy for all this busy schedule. I'm pleased that you visited and know you will spend time once the important work is done. I look forward to the interior shots as I know you will do a great job.

Asher
 

Cem_Usakligil

Active member
Hi Asher,

Like Nicolas, I am also short of time and I haven't had the chance to study the pictures in detail. So this is just a reaction based on first impressions. Firstly, I am glad to see you post serious artwork of yours like these (even if they are sketches/prototypes). The quality is already very high and given the circumstances of the make-shift environment where you were shooting in, with only one assistant to hold a reflector, I think you have done very well indeed. The choice of the red bed covers is very apt, who took care of them? In the first two frames, I prefer the initial one you have shown. The cool light on the body of the woman lying on her back contrasts strikingly with the warmth of the other woman. It may even be seen/interpreted as if the first one is dead (also thanks to the stiff stance) and that the other one is mourning her demise. In the second frame, she is no longer dead. however. As Jerome wrote, the relationship between the two has changed here. As the same goes for the third picture. By shedding her clothes and by closing in on them, you have created yet another interpretation for us to muse upon. I can imagine that you would like to prototype like this before committing things to the now rather scarce and expensive film. Keep us updated please.
 

Asher Kelman

OPF Owner/Editor-in-Chief
Cem,

I value so much your consideration of my work. Nudes, like sunsets and the Eiffel Tower are inherently beautiful. I have no intention of following any path to eroticism, voyeurism or to match anyone else's work. I'm trying to use two people as my modes of representation of ideas.

So your interpretations are important to me. I'm thrilled that you have a good impression. More work to come.

Asher
 

Jerome Marot

Well-known member


Asher Kelman: Untitled #3

Oceano California 2012

Larva, left and Marcia, right
I think I understand better now what you were aiming for. This is nice. Some minor comments could be made on the light and processing, but the point I find the most problematic (for me!) is the face of the lower, bottom model, Larva. Because of the angle, her nostrils are quite apparent and the expression of rest is changed negatively: this is the same position we view the head of someone standing and looking down on us. Maybe an extra cushion under her head would help?

The hand to the right side of her head is also distracting, as it appears to come out of nowhere. Of course, it belongs to Marcia, the top model, but this is not immediately apparent to the casual viewer. The pose also creates a bulge in her right shoulder.

Larva's right shoulder (on the left of the picture) is deformed because of the cushion under it.
The small bulge on the bottom model right leg (on the left side of the picture) could be fixed in post. It appears on almost all women resting on their back, so it is nothing that the pose can correct. Same for the top arm elbow.

Feet, knees and skin need a bit of doctoring, but I suppose you know that.

Light is a problem which is difficult to fix. Either we have strange shadows cast by limbs or we lose the mysterious mood with a flat light. Personally, I would go for a flat light and change the fabrics to something white (lace?) and try a high key picture, but that would be a different image of course.
 

Asher Kelman

OPF Owner/Editor-in-Chief
Good observations, Jerome!

The hand to the right side of her head is also distracting, as it appears to come out of nowhere. Of course, it belongs to Marcia, the top model, but this is not immediately apparent to the casual viewer. The pose also creates a bulge in her right shoulder.
Let's see what happens when the toning of that hand and arm is corrected. Then it should be associated with Marcia by default.

Light is a problem which is difficult to fix. Either we have strange shadows cast by limbs or we lose the mysterious mood with a flat light. Personally, I would go for a flat light and change the fabrics to something white (lace?) and try a high key picture, but that would be a different image of course.
Jerome,

I think you are seeing the great challenge that occurs in shooting with film where one cannot use one's wizardry in post, (unless, of course one scans and uses PS on that file). So I'll be starting to shoot with lights and see if we can't control everything. After all, it's just physics! Correcting digital images does make one very much aware of the higher needs of film if one is going to print directly.

Asher
 

Asher Kelman

OPF Owner/Editor-in-Chief
Doug,

Thanks for your generous impressions. I value both the immediate experience and the very detailed, studied reports by Jerome.

Asher
 

Helene Anderson

New member
This is a subject that is way out of my area but I was struck by the richness of the red, the texture around the models that made the whole image(s) look comfortable.
 

Rachel Foster

New member
Asher, do you remember that old movie, Invasion of the Body Snatchers? I feel a bit like a pod person because I never thought I'd ask this question.


What is your "arc of intent" with these photos?
 

Asher Kelman

OPF Owner/Editor-in-Chief
What is your "arc of intent" with these photos?
Rachel,

My full arc of intent not revealed here. I do that on purpose. These pictures are sketches for an ongoing project. So I'm sharing in the hope that any beauty will be appreciated and differences in taste will be forgiven. :)

Asher
 
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I’ve been looking at your pictures of Larva and Marcia and thinking about the critiques you are getting. Here are some digressive musings:

On first look the complementary picture that jumps into my mind is Gustav Courbet's 1866 painting "Le Sommeil".

Le Sommeil​

If something like this is your underlying theme then an 8x10 film shoot (in colour, no less) is a monumental undertaking. Combining a strong theme, high production values, runaway costs for studio, models, film, processing, post-production, and perhaps exhibition is like jumping in at the deep end. I would not have the courage to attempt it. My usual working pattern is one amateur model, outdoors, natural light with maybe a reflector, no assistants, and no costs except for film, photographs for the model, and lunch.

Frankly, the world does not need more pictures of pretty girls without their garments. And the nude in art would seem a desperately tired genre that has run out of things to say. But amazingly it isn't so in at least two ways.

The nude remains an eternal metaphoric space in which aspects of the human condition can be explored and commented upon. The unclad figure, taken out of humdrum context, becomes every-man or every-woman at any time or at all times. If you have a broad visual statement to make about humanity, uncluttered by the here-and-now, the particular, and the picayune, then the nude is what you should use.

It is a blessing born of long tradition that most people are familiar with the nude in art. They can accept the surface view, "this is so and so with their clothes off", and then pass beyond to read the underlying message. The tension between the nude as carnal and the nude as sublime has existed for a long time. Praxiteles (4th Century BCE) knew this when carved his Aphrodite for the city fathers of Knidos and employed his mistress, the famous courtesan Phryne, as the model. The city fathers were embarrassed (some knew Phryne "commercially") and grumpy but they paid Praxiteles fee and the statue became the most famous Aphrodite ever. Photography can likewise celebrate the clash between eros , as felt, and logos, as thought, and it can do it with wit and wisdom.

The second celebration of the nude that will never run dry is celebration of real beauty for its own sake. I think of "What a piece of work is man... Hamlet, Act 2, scene II" and assert that if we cannot admire our common humanity at its best then we fully deserve the miseries of body-denying asceticism. Heaven forfend! Beauty beyond the cliches of fashion and celebrity is everywhere and everywhere fading. The photographer's tout accosting women in the street with "C'mon luv have yer pitcher done. You'll never look more beautiful than today" spoke more truth than he knew. The ancient tombstone inscription "As you are now so once was I. As I am now you soon shall be" is grimly true as well. It is absolutely legitimate to use the photographic time machine to capture beauty in the here and now, a face , a nude, a sentiment carnal or chaste, and defend it against an uncaring past and an uncertain future.

Asher, don't worry too much about the lighting unless you are pandering to a client's expectations; or if you seeking acclaim by matching the lowest common denominator of popular acceptance. Trust your own eye. If it looks right it is right. I reckon it is often forgotten in the arts that a competent artist in command of their medium cannot, even in principle, be wrong. The lighting becomes right by the fact of you having chosen it. The audience's role is not to fret "Why is the light wrong?" but rather enjoy "Why is the light right?!"

I'm glad you may be able to work with nudes in your personal studio. It is a big advantage to have your own set-up, equipment, and necessaries nearby and familiar. And it is a hazard also. Do you really want to bring your work home? How far do you mix art and life? The history of nude photography is punctuated by cautionary examples. Maybe Flora Weston should have said "No nudes" to Edward in Mexico or elsewhere. Maybe Georgia O'Keefe should have kept Alfred Stieglitz from photographing and seducing Rebecca Strand while Paul was away on assignment.

My casual observations of photo-culture indicate photographers and nude models have sexual encounters more often than chance would allow. And it’s not through severe moral laxity from either party. People who model nude tend to be attractive, to be self-aware, and to be confident in projecting their attractiveness. Photographers tend to be highly responsive to that same visual attractiveness. (That's why they become photographers in the first place.) The scene is set and human nature sometimes follows through. Harm or no, audiences titter.

There are exemplary figures in the art of the nude: Manuel Alvarez Bravo, all serious and intellectual, and Helmut Newton, all fun and naughty games, who never jumped the camera (ok, AFAIK). But even here a suspicion of prurience clings. It comes with the territory, it’s often unfair, and some people can’t abide it. Ansel Adams never photographed nudes but enjoyed looking at Edward Weston’s efforts.

A photograph of the nude is a conspiracy between the model and the photographer. It is not iron-clad certain, Asher, when you work with Larva and Marcia who rules. Perhaps the ladies are performance artists who culminate their art by inveigling a man with a camera, a factotum, to give their talent permanent form.

Asher, good luck with your project. There may be costs: financial, intellectual, social, repute even, but I reckon it’s worth it.

Enough musings. We both have pictures to make.
 
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