Dirty Laundry #3: Photo Process

After a drink with a friend and a conversation about his wife’s interest in costume, I was all excited to shoot with her. At the beginning of last week I emailed A about posing in mediaeval garb for my project, and when I got a positive response my mind started spinning a narrative immediately. As the week went on I emailed A a couple times, bought 100 candles and sourced marionettes. My excitement began to wane as it became clear that A had either not checked her email or changed her mind- thursday came and went with no word and I decided to back burner that idea. Earlier in the week while I was telling my sister my concerns she said “you should come up with an idea we could do”. I was pretty honored that both my sister and my bro-in-law had voiced a desire to shoot with me and relieved to know that I had resources close to home. Friday morning I woke up at 6am with an urge to be very productive- I sensed Juliet was home and I figured she’d be home all day. I tried to go back to sleep but I had  images of my sister and random props floating through my mind. What did I have at home? What could be interesting? Where could I shoot? I laid in bed with a pillow over my face for about an hour, half attempting to sleep half cataloguing items that I thought could fit together. Eventually I had a rough sketch in my mind- Juliet, a hat with net, the stairwell, and a spilled purse- something illicit on the ground, some sort of transgression… She’d be tied up and there would be an exposed roll of film, foreign money and a key. Hours later, when Juliet had woken up and we had caught up a bit I proposed my idea and she was totally on board. I prepped the lighting and the purse while Juliet put on make up and got dressed. Shoes, hat, earrings we picked out together and soon she definitely looked the part. Juliet was amazing- I don’t know if I could have done it with one with anyone else- she was patient and serene when I tied her to the bannister in the hallway (which is completely minging). I gave her an occasional direction for how to position her head or where to put her feet and a couple times I had to tell her to look less happy. Pretty early on there was an awkward moment when one of the maintenance men came in to check out what was happening but they seemed pretty taken with the drama of the scene and backed out politely with only the word “respect” repeated a few times. The shoot was quick- I’ve started to get used to this project and know better what I’m going to be looking for in the compilation faze; “establishing shot”, some dramatic portrait type shots and details of the action/props. Hands have also become a theme which is interesting. Ruth always tells me how she loves hands- and I always think to myself, I don’t love hands, I think shots of hands during documentaries are just desperate editing measures and kind of lame. But in this project the hands seem to be full of action informing the narrative….so…there’s a lot of hands. The light was very hard to work with since I only had the option of subtracting and couldn’t really add light but I cranked the gain up, shot wide open and tried to trust that it would be fine. Again I was afraid I had nothing good when I walked away but there was no time to check and find out as I had a date and not nearly enough time to get ready.

*** a couple days later ***

I’m really feeling the limitations of my camera today. I decided to shoot in the stairwell which of course had no power points so I was forced to work with the available light- a pair of florescent bulbs on each landing. I blacked out the light on the 10th floor, keyed from the light on the 11th floor and took the plastic cover off the light on the 12th floor to try and get a bit more down to the 11th. The light was too low, the paint was shiny, and the there was very little I could do about it. I had no choice but to shoot at ASA 1600 the whole time which means that my photos are full of noise. I love the series and I’m pleased with how the shoot came out but I feel like the quality is dramatically lower than the last two series. Not only is the noise awful but it seems to have left the photographs seeming less sharp. Another problem is that there seems to be a dead pixel. I only noticed it in the bag shot at first but then as I looked back through I found that each photo had a red spot in the same place. I patched it in photoshop by using the eyedropper tool to pick up a nearby color and cover the red spot- it was probably about 6 pixels actually. Later I’ll have to see what google says about dead pixels on the rebel…. to be honest I’d love an excuse to buy a new camera despite the fact that I can’t quite afford it at the moment. While upgrading has been on my mind for a while, this project had made me start to feel quite serious about it- I’ve been getting by for quite a while but I’m starting to feel like it’s past time for me to have a professional camera package and while I will always love film and intend on continuing to print etc. this shouldn’t stop me from investing properly in a digital camera.

Otherwise project 3 has gone well while I’m excited to post the pics and see what Viccy has to say.

see photographs and stories at cargocollective.com/dirtylaundry