Saturday, March 26, 2011

26/52 Mary Reese

This time around I once again find myself doing a remake of a black and white frame, not properly a portrait, but close enough.

Mary Reese works at the Hyde Park Art Center. She is graduate of  both the Heron school of art, and  Indiana University Bloomington with a degrees in painting. She is currently doing graduate studies at the University of Chicago, pursuing a degree in social work. She's a long time friend of my roommate Jeff, and like many people I know (and have photographed for this project) originally hails from Indiana.

When I approached Mary about doing a portrait, she immediately jumped on the idea of recreating a famous portrait. After considering it for a while, she suggested recreating a still frame from a video of Yoko Ono's cut piece performance. For those who aren't familiar with the work, a brief art history lesson, stolen directly from Wikipedia:

Cut Piece had one destructive verb as its instruction: "Cut." Ono executed the performance in Tokyo by walking on stage and casually kneeling on the floor in a draped garment. Audience members were requested to come on stage and begin cutting until she was naked. Cut Piece was one of Ono’s many opportunities to outwardly communicate her internal suffering through her art. Ono had originally been exposed to Jean-Paul Sartre's theories of existentialism in college, and in order to appease her own human suffering, Ono enlisted her viewers to complete her works of art in order to complete her identity as well. Besides a commentary on identity, Cut Piece was a commentary on the need for social unity and love. It was also a piece that touched on issues of gender and sexism as well as the greater, universal affliction of human suffering and loneliness. Ono performed this piece again in London and other venues, garnering drastically different attention depending on the audience. In Japan, the audience was shy and cautious. In London, the audience participators became zealous to get a piece of her clothing and became violent to the point where she had to be protected by security.

Yoko Ono is a controversial figure in popular culture, and this work itself creates controversy as a means to promote discourse. Love it or hate it, I think it's a powerful image. Here is the original still which we attempted to recreate:

This is honestly the best version of the still I could find, as well as by far the most compositionally interesting. The light setup for the original was simple: one hard light to camera right, and one lamp visible in the frame. The shadows are crucial to the composition, so I was forced to use a hard light as a key. I placed an SB-800 at camera left, and had Jeff pose as the shadow. The original image was also of Yoko seated on a table, while we were forced to use the floor. We had Jeff sit on a stool to make the height of his shadow relative to Mary. We briefly attempted to recreate the lamp, which resulted in this tremendous failure:

Broom boom fail. At least we can say that we tried. So after scrapping the boom idea, I decided I should use the ring flash as an on-axis fill. I dialed it down to where the shadows still read as shadows, but they were less contrasty and detail in them was preserved. Here's a shot of the setup:

As our wall was not totally blank, I had to cheat and take out some outlets in the final image. Overall, I think we succeeded in recreating the original, while improving the quality of the light a bit and making the image overall a bit more menacing.

Strobist Info:
SB-800 camera right with barn doors
SB-800 on camera through ray flash ring adapter

Camera Settings:
1/250 f/6.3 at ISO 200
Nikon 17-55 f/2.8 @ 19mm

No comments:

Post a Comment