Gettin’ Skinny and Lovin’ It
I bet you’re wondering if this will be about a new diet program, and how I am slimming down and getting to be a lean mean fighting machine.
And it is… sorta.
It’s a diet of all things photography.
I am moved out of the big studio I share with Dave Siegel in Phoenix. We moved to a smaller studio (still with a cyc and all I need for a big shoot) but without all the excess stuff that really resulted in a cluttered space and working environment.
Clutter is not always things either. Sometimes it is thought processes and sometimes it is workflow and sometimes it is simply dealing with all the physical clutter that makes us have mental clutter… did you follow that?
When I started the process, I was a bit down. I am a collector. I love my little mementoes; of projects I did, models I knew, and experiences that were memorable. Getting the courage to toss a lot of that stuff made me dig deep… LOL.
I also found boxes that had been unopened from my original move in 2002. I was going to open a few to see what was in the them, but realized if I hadn’t touched it in 12 years it simply was not important. (Yes, my fear is that I will awaken in the middle of the night remembering I had stashed a Leica system in one of the boxes… arghh… but that will only be a nightmare.)
I pared down almost everything I had because of the changes in my interests in photography and the work I want to do and will be doing.
When I started out it was in the late 70’s. Natural light was my source.
By the mid 80’s a studio with tons of lights and booms and stands was home to me. 14 hour workdays were common. It had a kitchen and a shower, a full makeup area with two stations. The darkroom was spacious and featured three enlargers – one color. We did Cibachromes and black and white prints and poster sized enlargements.
The studio was always full of people… models, clients, art directors stopping by on the way to and from somewhere, assistants, makeup artists… it was a place of social interaction as well as a place to work.
What was pretty cool to do in your thirties became less so as we get older and gain families and other social lives. Perhaps in some studios that still goes on.
In ours it doesn’t.
(We are adding some things to the new studio that will maybe help create a more fun environment with much more interaction between creatives.)
I have over the years gotten rid of a lot of the bigger lighting (Norman 2000 packs) and was down to only one pack and four heads. They went to a friend who is going to fix them up and use them in his studio. The stuff I had been clinging on to for years was in the end a lot of junk.
Dumpster divers will find old negatives, transparencies, and boxes of stuff they will not even have a clue about. Stuff that meant something to me at one time… now it is gone.
Or perhaps someone will reclaim those old pinup shots from the 80’s. or the tractor catalog I shot in 92 or better yet, the “Little Black Dress” poster I shot for the Leighton Agency back in 90.
LOL… lots of memories.
Interestingly the memories remain… only the box of stuff is gone.
I was going to toss out the print ‘collection’ (probably a thousand or more) but decided to digitize it first. Probably use the iPhone and snap shots of each of the prints before tossing them as well. Perhaps… unless I just love the print and want to DO SOMETHING WITH IT. If it doesn’t go into a portfolio, it will be gone.
So what did I keep?
Booms – all five of them. And all my stands. Never have enough stands. I have four Profoto strobes and a plethora of modifiers, but my “kit” is now two heads, two Octaboxes (48”) and one 24” square softbox. Accompanied by four grids and a beauty dish, this is what I will be grabbing on the way out the door. I still have the one Dynalite as well. It may go or I may get rid of the Profotos and go all Dynalite. Much smaller footprint for sure.
I have a rolling rack that contains all of my gear except the booms. All stands and umbrellas are in Standbaggers, and the small stuff is in a cadre of tool boxes. One for small strobe stuff, one for big light shoots and one for the odds and ends I always need on a shoot. Pliers and wrenches and fasteners and velcro.
Organized it is getting. And I will be doing more now that I have pared it all down. That means I have to redo my packing sheets (obsolete now) for the new gear bags and boxes. Each box/bag has a laminated ‘packing sheet’ with exactly what is in them. This makes it easy to find the right part and easy to know where it goes when the shoot is over. Even thinking about color coding the items for the different boxes. Using small pieces of colored tape, each strobe, connector, cable or screwdriver can find its home easily.
When I used to go on location, we took a truck of gear. I am now finding I prefer one light and the world. Styles change, but also my personal work is becoming more about my vision rather than someone else’s. Yes, commercial photography was a lot of working your image to THEIR vision. I am climbing out of that hole, but after decades it is not as easy as I would have thought it to be.
The more gear I take on a shoot, the less ‘spontaneous’ I find myself. I want to change that up.
For nearly four decades I was focused on getting THE IMAGE. We would prep and light and re-light all day for that one perfect shot. Tweaking and ‘roiding, tweeking and ‘roiding. In the end a perfectly conceived and produced photograph was the goal.
That is not how I want to do it anymore. I want flexibility and whimsy and a much more loose feeling to my work – to my images. And that means thinking differently.
Thinking smaller in gear choice, looser in presentation, quicker in production. Spontaneous is exactly that and ‘staging’ spontaneity is as hard as it sounds. However, the actual image should look like it wasn’t staged at all. And that takes a loose approach to a tightly scripted production… loving that right now. The challenge is something I have always craved. If it is too easy, it can become a bit stale.
I still love to shoot in natural light, ‘real light’ so to speak. Working with what I am given seems to perk my creative ideas up a bit. But I also love to create light and create an emotion with that light that may move someone else when viewing the image.
Something else happened this week amongst the tossing of stuff and the paring down of gear… I am much more excited about shooting. I have so many more ideas now than I did two weeks ago. Perhaps the anchor of too much stuff began to wear on my creativity.
Stravinsky once said that the greatest freedom to create came with the tightest confines. If we have everything to choose from, perhaps the choosing gets in the way of the creation itself.
I went on a week long roadtrip with only one body and four lenses not wider than 28 and not longer than 85. I had the best shoot I could have imagined. In fact, I probably would love to do it again with a 35mm only. Maybe the constraints of the lens would spark a creativity I would have to dig deep for.
For now I have gone from an office the size of my living room to a corner in the garage (OK, a bit more than a corner) and I am feeling more like shooting than I have in quite a while.
Look, I am not telling you to pare down and go minimal. I have no dog in that hunt and would only prefer that you do what you want if it makes you happy and more creative. There are some incredibly gifted shooters with far more gear than I and Dave put together. They USE the tools for what they do.
And that is exactly what I want to get back to… using the tools I have to make the images I want to make.
It is really all about the image, and the freedom to create what you see in your minds eye. If there is something that is getting in the way of that endeavor it must go. It must.
I will post images of the new studio when it is ready. Lots of construction going on… we are putting in a real darkroom with sinks and all. Don’t ask… we are indulging ourselves a bit.