Steph's and Courtney's creative with Nikolas Syhatheb was a shoot born into ideological and logistical conflict. Mode Models' Michael Meneghetti (ha, alliteration!) expressed concerns over the value of "artistic" creatives in helping models land international work because many of these shoots tend not to give clients a clear view of what these models really look like. These assertions echo what Next Models' Brenda Rains had relatively recently help me to understand; in shooting model development creatives, dramatic makeup, hair, and lighting should take a back seat to seeking a model's natural beauty through the lens of a camera. It's actually a concept that I have casually attempted to help Harvey Miedreich understand during our first meeting and to be completely honest I still have my doubts that Harvey fully understands (are you reading this, Harvey?! ) I feel that this was a concept and purpose that Nikolas understood early on in his career and I only now understand. Why he often resisted doing a more dramatic application of makeup and instead opted to extract a model's beauty rather than modify it.
Back to discussing the logistical challenges. Nikolas' full time placement at Mousy Brown's seems to have helped him become a better hair stylist for photography and film but it also has made him become much less available. Sunday is now his only full day off which, unfortunately, has made creative shoot planning very inflexible. He booked me for a Sunday for a creative collaboration and I was under the impression that he had already spoken to the two models' agents about the shoot. I found out that Michael had yet to have been consulted (Friday) so I send out an e-mail which reaches him the Saturday morning before the shoot. Michael returns my request with an outright no and so I attempt to call Nikolas and fail to reach him on his cell phone because of the phone blocker installed at the salon. I panic and physically go to the salon so that I could ask him how to proceed and Nikolas' suggested approach was to make Michael aware that the models were ready to go and help him understand the difficulty we found to agree on a Sunday.
In the end and after a phone call Michael obliges. I feel that his concerns for approving a creative booking with such short notice is well-founded; by lengthening the pre-shoot planning time an agent can use this time to better prepare a model for a shoot and also help a photographer be more logistically aligned in the time leading up to the shoot in hopes of getting better images even though these casual creatives tend towards lower-concept shooting. With that in mind I was still glad that we were able to shoot together and even though we struggled with the idea of going so natural with makeup and hair there were photos we created this day that were unique and possibly portfolio-worthy.
While Nikolas prepared the girls I floated the idea of shooting only black and white film. If we could accept monochromatic images as the only deliverables shooting with only the Leica M7 and Toyo VX125 large format camera platform would prove to be a valuable photographic exercise. And so I loaded six 4x5 sheets of Ilford FP4+ and four 36exposure rolls of the same film and we left for the photoshoot location. You can also see Mode's blog entry with their favourite images from the shoot here.
I don't know why I like this image so much. It looks unlike anything I have ever shot before. Captured with a chrome/vulcanite/MP finder a la carte Leica M7 through the Zeiss 35mm F/2 Biogon ZM on Ilford FP4+ pulled from ISO 125 to ISO 32 in a 1+1 dilution of Kodak XTOL and scanned with the Nikon Coolscan 5000. Full res crops available upon request for tonality and grain structure evaluation.
Some earlier shots. To be completely honest I had absolutely no idea how to make this shoot work with this styling and with virtually no makeup and no styling product applied to hair and in the middle of the day. But part of the charm of working with black and white again is only needing to think about contrast and mentally discarding colour from your scene. In the last photo Courtney and Steph are having a laugh at my expense after my unfortunate tongue slip. I was nervous, okay?! Hahah.
We experimented with using one of the models as a background element in a number of photos. By pulling to ISO 32 we could shoot midday with lens apertures wide open even with fabric shutter of the Leica M7 limiting us to 1/1000s maximum shutter speed.
There was an assortment of ladders between the catwalks around this small water processing facility that I originally wanted to arrange and shoot a wider angle image but the geometry just wasn't working out. Still, with a bit of direction Courtney shot beautiful interacting with the single ladder.
I worked with Steph along recently-erected construction scaffolding. While there were photos of Steph making more contact with railings and pipes I felt that the shots where there was implicit interaction with the environment through the way lines intersect created stronger images. Photos shot through the Leica 50mm 2nd generation chrome Summilux-M at F/1.4.
Nikolas touching up makeup under an umbrella, giving Courtney a piggy-back ride back to the vehicle, and spritzing everyone with some vitamin water spray.
Taken on the scaffolding with the Schneider Symmar-S 135mm F/5.6 @ F/5.6 on the Toyo VX125. Scanned with an Aztek DPL-driven Howtek Scanmaster 4500 drum scanner. And I may have flipped this film when scanning it.
A shot from the Leica through the 35mm F/2 @ F/2 just to help give an idea of the difference in lens rendition between somewhat similar relative magnifications for each lens on their respective formats.