Home is one of those places – always there, buried in your memory and burned in your spirit, and never quite accessible. It’s an impressionist painting made of memories and moments that you stare at so closely you can’t put it together, yet, you don’t let yourself step away.
Let me start this off by thanking Brian Camarao one more time. Not only did he do a wonderful job in his discussion, but having him there to work with was awesome. Without him, this workshop never would have happened. For anyone interested in participating in future workshops, send me an email at email@example.com. I’d love to hear from you! I’m hoping to run another lighting workshop in the next two months.
The first day was a real challenge. There was a lot of material to go over, and we only had those 3 hours to cover the basics of lighting. I think the information was good, but it was dense, requiring a lot of attention from the participants. But the second day was an altogether different story. I had given an assignment to each participant to come up with a concept for a 15-minute shoot with our model using the principles from the first day. Watching everyone apply what we had discussed in their own unique way was incredibly rewarding. I was so happy to be part of it. What impressed me the most was each participant’s level of commitment. Everyone had clearly taken the time to think about things and to bring in their own ideas. Though no one had worked in a studio environment before, I thought the results were wonderful. The images below are my picks for the most successful image from each shoot, along with a description of the concept we worked with.
Above image by Giovanna Mantovani
Giovanna was the first to go. She wanted to work with a hard light source to give the picture a raw feel. She directed Cynthia, our model, to display hidden exuberance, as if she were trying to contain her amusement. As soon as the shoot started, we noticed the long shadow created by the hard light Giovanna had selected. We decided to integrate it into the picture – it was a perfect complement – a metaphorical representation of Cynthia’s hidden self, lending a sense of sophistication to the image.
Above image by Susan Choe
After Giovanna was Susan. Susan was initially interested in the imbalance and awkwardness of snapshots we see so commonly on Facebook and the Internet. Like Giovanna, she wanted to work with hard light, but the studio lighting was too polished for a true snapshot look. Compounding matters, Susan was unfamiliar with the camera I had her use, making it hard to think about composition while adjusting the camera. This lead her to misframe her first few shots. It turned out to be a blessing, as we realized that the offbeat composition was a perfect way to bring out a sense of visual tension and imbalance without departing from the studio look.
Above image by Sam Han
Sam switched gears completely, focusing instead on the lighting and creating his mood through the look of the picture. To emphasize the moodiness, he decided to place the light behind Cynthia, softening it up by using a very large softbox. The look was both classic and modern, and well-executed.
Above image by Iqral La Rode
Finally, Iqral ended the set with the purest of concepts. He wanted a serious and contemplative image about life and its challenges. Despite the simplicity of the idea, I felt that this was one of the most difficult to execute. Cynthia is very photogenic, and her natural ability to pose stylishly is hardly what you’d think of as downtrodden. But as we moved through the set of images, we worked on creating an intimate space and helping her visualize to create the mood Iqral was after. I loved what he achieved. It felt sincere and subtle without feeling too heavy-handed.
My friend Cori (a wonderful photographer in her own right) passed a link my way to some work from Phillip Toledano on The Anthropologist. I love his wry sense of humor and the clarity of his communication. It’s refreshing to see work that is about keen observation. There is so much that goes on in the world, and it’s so easy to miss it if you don’t think about it. The fact that I just had my second child made this resonate that much more.
There seems to be this mythical idea that artists create by intention. That everything is scripted and planned, as if there were some divine guidance or greater purpose to the things we create. It gives us something to latch onto. There’s comfort in the authenticity of it all. After all, who wants to idolize random chance?
Now, I don’t know about everyone else, but I know for me it’s pretty far from the case. I feel like most of my life has happened by accident, and it’s no different for much of my photography. In the picture above, Katya is actually in the middle tending to Keira when I took the shot in the studio. I just thought the whole thing looked cool. The color of her lipstick, the hair that obscures her eyes, her body position…works for me. Another happy accident.
I started as a documentary photographer, and I never really questioned the purpose of the pictures I took at the time. They were stories of the world and lives lived, and if I could tell those stories, what more need there be? It was a matter of taking people to a time and place and connecting them. But the more pictures I took, the more I realized how subjective everything was. There was no true moment and false moment. No composition that spoke honestly or falsely. There were just parameters and choices. There were the times where I decided to click a button and those where I didn’t. But an image taken one second earlier can connote the diametric opposite of another taken one second later. Photographs are simply instances of things that happen. They are the opinions and ideas of the image maker.
I meant to put this into the last set of pictures, but I forgot to export it. We were really thankful to have Dr. Rhee as our OB/GYN. Her work is top rate, and we were really impressed with the way she handled herself. She was clearly well-regarded by her peers. Everything went smoothly, and the staff at Saint Luke’s Roosevelt also did a great job, but a hospital is a tough place to be, even when everything goes well, and, birth, at least insofar as a C-section goes, is a trying experience.
With the first C-section, my son Evan found his way into the NICU. He had swallowed some meconium, and no one told us that it was fairly common, leaving us very worried. This second time was much better. Having been through it helped, and Keira was healthy and well. Still, the whole thing just happens so fast. One second you’re waiting for your baby, the next moment you’re waiting for surgery. Everything in your world really is on the line at that point, and the wait feels like an eternity. Sure, the chances are slim that things will go seriously wrong, but you are incredibly vulnerable at this point.
You sit, you wait, and once things have calmed down and everything is fine, you really just want to make your way home as soon as you can. You lie there in pain, in a pale hospital gown with a remote control that’s a bit out of reach for a TV that looks to be pushing 20 years, and in front of you is the tray. It’s a tray of modest proportions, and everything you can access for the duration of the stay sits on top of it. I’ve considered a third child (Katya says I’m crazy), but I have to say that I don’t really know how I feel about repeating the hospital experience. Katya is even less than eager to do so. At very least, I think I can fairly say it won’t be something we consider until the memories of the experience have long faded.
Stale*Bread is the journal of Brooklyn-based photographer Spencer Lum. Come here to see what's new, read my rants and raves, and even see a few pictures here and there. If you want to know about what else I'm up to, visit my sites at: