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The Simplicity of the Studio

I am a minimalist photographer. I tend to eliminate everything from the image except what I consider important. I prefer a graphic presentation – clean, letting the subject and the light speak for me.

Perhaps this comes from early influences like Bert Stern. As a commercial photographer, Stern made his impact in advertising, where he was known for simple composition. His Smirnoff image – the one that lierally introduced vodka into the United States – featured the great pyramid at Gizeh, whose inverse reflection in a martini glass was the single element in the photograph. His image used in the Heublein ad had Bill Corum and Boris Karloff in a boxing ring with no ropes. Just the trapezoidal platform representing the ring, and an exit sign for the crowd. That’s it.

For me, the studio provides this simplicity.

The one I use is small, and has a white cyc wall. Light it, it’s white. Don’t light it, it’s grey. Put a grid on a light and you have a gradient.

As Joe McNally says, it is a box that you fill with your imagination.

Here are 2 images that have no props, no elaborate backgrounds, just a subject. And light.

The first, of Rebecca, is shot against the cyc. The key light source is being thrown through a “cookie” (cookaloris), which in this case was a piece of styrofoam with slits cut in it to cast light patterns as if coming through a window.

The second, featuring Haley, has the key very much controlled in a strip box, as if the light was coming through an open doorway.

Both have the feeling of reflective moments; we have caught the subjects in a moment of quiet contemplation. Both are toned black and white images, so not even color is there to distract. All there is is light, And dark. And my subject.

I recently returned to the studio from some location work. I enjoyed the escape from the heat, the bugs. And the return to simplicity.


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