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Yet Another Beauty Shot

Ok, well, maybe not exactly what you are thinking. I have one of those scheduled for later this week.

I was reading Dan Winters’ Road to Seeing, and, for some reason, the idea of photographing some of my old darkroom apparatus – some dating from the Thirties (no, I’m not that old – it was handed down) came to mind. I have (or possibly had) some beautiful porcelain trays with a blue edge detail that I wanted to shoot, but I couldn’t find them. While rooting around one of my storage areas I did find old chemical bottles and other assorted goodies, as well as the subject of this shoot – a Polaroid 800.

Vintage cameras I have plenty of, and they are worth, well, next to nothing. This includes my Burke & James 5×7 and enlarger. But this camera, at least in my opinion, may be one of the most beautiful cameras ever produced.

This camera was not cheap in the day, and included many unusual features: it sported an early form of electronic flash (“…take pictures without flashbulbs...”), had a range-finding viewfinder, as well as the usual instant gratification that we now take for granted with digital cameras. The 800 was also unusual in that it took roll film – a positive roll and a negative roll – and the film was developed in-camera, using the timer shown (which also attached to the body via the same hot shoe as the flash). Not shown was the bounce reflector that held a flashbulb for bounce/fill flash.

© Donald J. Fadel, Jr. |

 I treated these images like I would treat any beauty shoot – with appropriate retouching to minimize flaws and maximize the real beauty of the object.

Speaking of retouching, there is an interesting section in Dan’s book regarding retouching (and, ironically, in a section on non-beauty or flattery portraits). He says

There isn’t an image that leaves my studio that isn’t altered in some way …

Because I attempt to create what is an approximation of my experience of the subject …

I feel the same. He then goes on to explain the lengths photographers such as Avedon went to retouch their images – cutting out and then rephotographing the cutout on white paper to create what he felt was an attractive body line for a subject, for example.

I take the same approach with my still life or product shots as I would for a portrait or a traditional beauty shot. It isn’t mere flattery – it’s the recreation of an experience that might be marred by flaws which we may not perceive with our eyes but which the photographic process, with its razor-like optics and narrow focus, reveals.

The only difference between then and now is the precision we have and the natural adaptation of the digital process to retouching. I for one don’t miss film, chemicals, and “analog Photoshop”:

© Donald J. Fadel, Jr. |

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