Diving headfirst into photography without much or more accurately, no knowledge at all, is something I did without any misgiving. Looking back, I suppose I’d make different decisions today— like assisting for notable photographers for several years. Instead, however, I went forth with my own offbeat way to educate myself. I had a slew of ideas in my head of images I wanted to create, but bringing them to completion— that was the riddle begging for resolve. So, what did I do? I sent emails to my favorite photographers who were successfully shooting in my preferred genres of editorial and music.
Chris Buck was the first photographer to get back to me.
A pretty severe snowstorm was approaching on the day that I was to meet up with Chris at his studio in Manhattan, but that wasn’t going to stop me. When I arrived, Chris was eating cereal (I think it was Lucky Charms), and he offered a bowl to me. I declined, but regret it now— it would be fun to write about eating cereal with Chris Buck, but instead I can only write that I rebuffed his offer.
Chris and I dissected my work that I’d brought along for him to review, which consisted of 10 black and white portraits— at the time, I didn’t feel my own previous attempts at color photography translated to art. Chris shared with me a stack of his own color work— it was extraordinary and translated to art quite well. We talked about the importance of creating and shaping light and using different color theory techniques to enhance a photograph.
I left feeling mighty empowered.
Several months later, when the weather turned warmer, I set out to produce my first color portfolio piece. I turned to my dear friend, Carolyn, who enthusiastically agreed to be the subject for the shoot. I then called Linda Fung, a hair and makeup artist who’d been credited on many tear sheets belonging to a photographer I worshiped at the time. Once Carolyn and Linda were on board, I started to conceptualize— Since this was to be my first color portfolio piece, I wanted to create something primal. My idea was to create a shot of Carolyn crawling out of a wooded area, covered in mud.
I spent the entire next day sourcing the perfect vintage slip dress and found it at a store in Old City. Afterwards, I went to a nearby greenhouse and purchased organic potting soil, since I rationalized that that was the cleaner way to slather my friend in mud.
The actual photo shoot was fairly simple: After the hair and makeup was completed, we drove to a quiet street with woods on either side. To apply the “mud,” I watered down the potting soil in a bucket and flung it on Carolyn using several different sized paint brushes, taking special care to avoid her face.
I shot these images around 3:00 in the afternoon, and since I didn’t want to capture any light source other than what I was introducing, I used a fast shutter speed and lit Carolyn with a single Lumedyne.
There was a famous quote that was framed and hanging in my apartment on the day that I headed out to create these images. I remember glancing at it on my way out the door. It read:
“Be brave enough to suck at something new.”
Shot with a Hasselblad 501 CM