On Seeing: A Journal – #242


More often than not, fashion models are tall, thin, and phenomenally beautiful. Those who are rather idiosyncratic looking, may still be successful as was the case with the model who is the subject of this week’s Journal.

I chose this off-beat beauty, Anastasia, for specific reasons, less physical than psychological. I could tell at our first meeting, a casting, that she was the kind of person who would find the unusual make-up that I had planned and the almost experimental nature of the shoot more fun than work, and might even become a creative collaborator. I wanted an unusual face that would present more of a challenge than more typical perfect physiognomy.

I did this shoot asking myself:  What can I discover, uncover, and learn?

To create something wonderful with an idiosyncratic model can be a challenge, requiring some interesting work with make-up, lighting, and imagination, but success yields unique imagery, often more memorable than perfect beauty.

I discussed my ideas with the talented make-up artist and body painter, Aeriel Payne. I suggested visual ideas and made drawings. I asked her to also make drawings with a wide range of variations. She did just that, creating and finding a dozen possibilities.

I responded with notes, drawings and further variations. We went back and forth via email several times in the days prior to the shoot, each contributing ideas and modifications until we felt we had a unified vision about which we both felt enthusiastic.

The Shoot. As I wrote in last week’s journal, trial and error is necessary, since in a shoot like this it’s not readily obvious what will work and what won’t. I begin with one set of lights, shoot, looking for “it!” and then move on to another set up and shoot again. What you see here are five types of lighting with the same model and make-up.

The above photograph (at the beginning of this Journal) was done with a circular projection spot and a somewhat wide-angled lens, used very close, like this:

The model was directed to move slightly after each exposure and my assistant Bart moved the spot according to my constant directions: “both eyes,”  “less chin,” “no ear,”  etcetera.

Then we changed the set, lights and lens.

This image was done with a small light, just over my head and placed a far distance away from the model.  Note the distinct shadow under her chin and colored gels in back used as “rim” lights.

Exploring further, we made another set of changes.

I used a great deal of soft light to minimize shadow.

Here, there is a light on each side – usually a rather banal form of lighting – and an “up” light.

I also used rim lights but they were too much, so I turned them off for this image.  One can discern the three lights reflected on each cornea.

The model’s intricate make-up was constantly fixed between each set of shots by the make-up artist, Aeriel Payne. Her hair, done by Kozmo, also needed constant attention. Little by little she became braver, and with my encouragement and seeing herself in the mirror Anastasia started taking comedic chances.

Hair and make-up artists, Kozma, on left, and Aeriel Payne, at work

In this following image I used just one bare bulb, almost a mimicry of direct sunlight.

The small “hard” light is above and behind me (note my shadow on her lower body) as I keep the camera and relatively longer lens about level with the center of her face.

We went to a fifth set up.

I had previously painted the back of the shooting “cyc”  (for cyclorama)
black, and I used a small, “hard” light high above and at a distance, plus an uplight to mitigate the shadow.

In the end, we came up with five subtly different Anastasias.

Do any work for you?

Model: Anastasia Tsyrulnyk, Muse Management, Inc.
Makeup: Aeriel Payne, Ken Barboza Associates, Inc.
Hair: Kozmo, Bryan Bantry Agency

Finally, I ask that if you enjoy these weekly “ON SEEING”  Journals,
would you please tell others? That would be much appreciated.