I have the utmost respect for conceptual photographers and film makers, those in the community who see a scene in their heads and then go about creating that vision in the real world. The imagination, creativity and force of will involved in bring a production to life is staggering and truly impressive.
My brain does not work that way.
It’s not that I don’t like working with lots of equipment or with models or shooting people. It’s the production that I’ve never been able to wrap my head around. Strobes, makeup, batteries, locations, clothes, stands, backdrops, reflectors, generators, props, scrims, light boxes, CABLES…the list is seemingly endless and that’s just the technical side. The setup is even more involved for motion picture work. It’s all slightly bewildering and fragile…one wrong element and things go poof!
What I DO like is “shooting the shoot” — capturing behind the scenes. My personal style is much more aligned with Henri Cartier-Bresson (HCB) and the decisive moment school of photography. I don’t want to go on an extended jag about HCB and the decisive moment, but in his 1952 book, Images à la Sauvette, HCB wrote, “Manufactured or staged photography does not concern me. And if I make judgment it can only be on a psychological or sociological level. There are those who take photographs arranged beforehand and those who go out to discover the image and seize it. For me the camera is a sketchbook, an instrument of intuition and spontaneity, the master of the instant which, in visual terms, questions and decides simultaneously. In order to “give a meaning” to the world, one has to feel oneself involved in what one frames through the viewfinder. This attitude requires concentration, a discipline of mind, sensitivity, and a sense of geometry—it is by great economy of means that one arrives at simplicity of expression. One must always take photographs with the greatest respect for the subject and for oneself.”
Applying this idea to a shoot, be it fashion or film, can yield very interesting results. I have been fortunate have been invited to several shoots, including as set photographer for a few short films. There are moments here — unposed, intimate, spontaneous, relaxed. By using the modeling light or a window to capture the models between the strobes or the cast and crew during the long, boring pauses between setup changes on a film set, we can bring into focus the human element behind these productions. Maybe HCB would approve.