Learn from the Pros

2011 July 21

There’s a revolution that’s gone on in photography where the computer has become king, almost like colouring by numbers or digital plastic surgery, but I still feel more at home behind the camera than the computer. Most of my work is environmental portraits and it’s behind the camera that the real magic happens. Magazines as a trend have moved away from a photojournalistic style of shooting to more constructed imagery. Rolling Stone and Vanity Fair have had a major impact on feature photography with the shift to concept based, considered shots that represent the way our culture likes to see things – people want a slicker, more stylised result. I’m better at this, even though I love the other. It’s the environment, the composition, the lighting that reflect character and personality and help me define the subject. I’ve been photographing Australian contemporary artist, Stormie Mills, for 12 years. This photograph was part of a series, taken for multi-use editorial to promote his solo exhibition, Gathering. It’s become too easy to lose a person in photography, to lose a certain authenticity and character in a subject. The technical aspects of this photograph were all completed in camera and it’s the absence of retouching that gives it its edge. Stormie is one of Australia’s leading contemporary artists who’s exhibited in top galleries across the globe. His Gathering exhibition was inspired by the autobiography of Rolling Stones guitarist, Keith Richards. Keith had no traditional training as a musician and his creative process involved going into a studio and just starting to work. This idea of working without preconceived boundaries or expectations and being able to exist in the moment with the work is what fuelled the idea of Gathering. This photo shoot was approached in not a dissimilar way and the imagery in the autobiography ‘Life’ formed part of my research. As with the image of Keith on the cover of ‘Life’ you can see the lines on Stormie’s face, the circles under his eyes, his skin looks so real. To have an artist who couldn’t care less about erasing these is so refreshing. His art work is a backdrop for the mood I wanted to create. There are dark elements to Stormie’s work and the lighting helped me reflect that. Lighting is such a powerful tool that creates a stage for a subject. I use the Profoto lighting kits and shaping tools because they allow me to be more creative and experimental on shoots. I can visualise and achieve new concepts. I always shoot portraits on a tripod. It’s a very powerful technique because you’re not just a face hidden behind a camera. No matter who you’re photographing there’s always some kind of insecurity. I get my framing perfect, then it’s just a case of capturing the essence of the person, that expression that sums them up. I think that’s why I get so many good hits, because I’m a person, not a photographer tucked behind a camera. That nurturing process is still there. I’d gone through phases where I’d photographed Stormie with paintbrushes and spray cans but after 12 years he’s evolved as an artist with a confidence that doesn’ty require the security of these traditional props. The bike, the jewellery, the clothes, the art – they’re all an extension of him. There’s more confidence in this photograph than the last because he’s more confident as an artist and a photographer records that. A Tilt Shift Lens (85mm) allowed me to record this in a more graphic way. The lens plays with the image and allows for information on the same plane to be soft and sharp focus. All the information is still there but there’s some that’s left to the imagination. The graphic approach fitted Stormie’s artistic and personal style and I think I created a more pleasing image. I’m very technically precise but the main focus is that end result. Some people are gadget geeks but after cutting my teeth shooting transparency, I have strong visualisation. There’s so little risk involved in digital photography, it’s almost easy. The real art is in capturing the essence of a person and not letting the tools get in the way. Frances Andrijich. SHOOTING DETAILS: Camera: Nikon D3s Shoot: Manual Mode, 85mm tilt shift lens, 1/60 @ f4.8, ISO 250.

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