Six weeks ago I had the pleasure to start working with photographer Francis Ford and a handful of other wonderful MIAD folks who enrolled in his summer coarse "Rock and Roll and Other Concerns." This class would be my last class for MIAD, and after its completion on Thursday I am now officially a college graduate. The class was all about photographing people in different niche groups who all have their intrinsic looks, wardrobe choices, social interests and talents. Throughout the coarse we photographed different bands, martial artists, dancers, improv comedians, and even a donimatrix. Each opportunity presented different editorial challenges, and it was always up to the photographer to take control of the set, and manage not only the lighting and composition, but successfully direct the subjects into an interesting and unique pose or look. An exciting challenge for someone such as myself, who doesn't usually work in the studio, and usually doesn't have much of an opportunity to manipulate what the subject is doing or how they look. Over the six weeks I definitely improved, and at the end I was very comfortable working with groups and thinking of new ideas on the spot.
The last group the was scheduled to be photographed was the band Little Saint Anything. These guys had a cohesive look, each wearing a semi-classy looking grey suit coat and tie. They seemed pretty open to getting creative with their poses, and I made sure to avoid the standard "grin and grip" group poses. I wanted the photos to reflect something about the bands music, and although I hadn't heard it before the shoot, they told me it was some blend of phsicodelic noises and lights with rock and roll, or at least this how I translated their explanation.
I brainstormed for a few moments while I was having them hang upside-down from each others shoulders, and then snapped a few unsuccessful photos. I was inspired by how much the blood had rushed to their heads, and found myself thinking about the phsicodelic imagery of The Flaming Lips. I've seen several photos of the band, as well as heard stories of live performances, and I always remember a very distinctive use of color. I looked around the studio for some props, and found myself a gold-mine of color just ten feet away in the form of long rolls of colored back drop colors. I had them each grab a bright colors roll then come back to the set. We tried a few different ideas and some were genius, while others awkward, but without a doubt they were all colorful.
I also wanted to shoot individual portraits with the same lighting and background. I have found that when shooting a group it is often hard to have every single person be in the light perfectly, or have cohesive or complimentary expressions and poses. I shot the individual portraits to gain a little more control, as well as have a more straight forward and clean looking series of the group. Overall I am very happy with the shoot, and am glad to have done conventional portraits along side the less traditional group shots.
Another interesting day was photographing a practitioner of Japanese marital art Kendo. It was something I had never really encountered before, at least outside of some main stream movies. I was glad to learn more about it through my time with him. The armor worn during Kendo also seemed to present and interesting challenge for me, and although I liked the completed look when wearing it all, I was unsure if I was showing enough of the individual under the armor. So we just started there and gradually removed different aspects of the armor until eventually I had covered most of the angles that I could visualize.
Most of the shots presented themselves naturally, and just had to be tweaked a little. I would rearrange some of the objects, face the mask towards the camera, and redirect his eyes around the scene. In the end it was very simple changes that seemed to make the most dramatic effect, and everything seemed to stand out pretty well against the all white backdrop. Photographing something that is unfamiliar was refreshing and also educational, and its great to know that just by simply taking photographs, you can learn about the world around you, and that people are always willing to share what they know about their unique interests and passions.
The class was an all around blast, and besides the occasional printing hang up or group dropping out, there was no summer class bummer times. Besides having additional photos to add to my website and portfolio, I also have many ridiculous studio photos of my friends and old classmates. They were always the most willing to try out different poses and ideas, and through this I learned the real power of the Run DMC pose... The class would not have been the same positive learning environment without Frank Ford and all my classmates willingness to try nonsensical ideas and put themselves on the line, resulting the most strange and entertaining poses. I guess risk taking can really still happen in the studio...