Special thanks to the owner of this auto repair shop for generously allowing us to shoot in this space. We had to choose times when the business was normally closed; we didn’t want a distracted technician dropping a transmission on his foot!
The space provided a number of visual opportunities in the form of textures, colors, and lighting characteristics. White walls allow for bouncing light, while the center of the cavernous space allowed for deep shadows.
A plethora of objects and a range of textures tell stories spanning decades of accumulation and evolution. Small parts, tools, and general clutter construct a rich tapestry that is gritty but organized. The models quickly felt at home exploring this location and exploiting the visual possibilities. Imagining the duties of those technicians who inhabit these areas, the models drew inspiration to choose props and strike poses.
Alexis poses with mechanic’s gloves, found among the various tools and parts used on a repair job. Hope with a long-spouted container against a backdrop that includes a cabinet of carefully-labeled drawers for small parts sorted by size. Many of the images against the bench were photographed vertically with a camera that produces a 4:5 ratio, very close to square. They worked better when cropped. Hope tests the weight of a large adjustable chrome crescent wrench. Hope strikes a right-angled pose against the workbench to conform to a square proportion. The bench and compartments form their own right angles, divided by broad lines.
Hope works with the vice amidst a variety of textures and tones. A rag draped over her shoulder helps integrate her with the surroundings.
Alexis, with a pneumatic hose snaking across her body, lays atop a mesh-skirted work table. This composition offers a rich array of contrasting texture. Hope sits on a shop cloth and leans into the items stacked on the bench.
Alexis, with welder’s goggles, crouches beneath the table top.
Although the strongest suggestion this prop makes is to contain the models entire body, Sarah comes up with some more creative compositions. The process of posing inside a form like this is a contemplative one. The model is acutely aware of where each body part is and how her head and limbs conform to the geometry. Even when glimpsed from an angle, this model’s striking features command immediate attention. Sarah’s long, flowing brown hair adds an interesting facet to the images.
In these images, I chose to bleach and cool the highlights and leave only a hint of the frame. My purpose is to draw the eye to the abstract shapes that create the overall design. The addition of a black square block forms a shape within a shape to further enhance the theme.
Composing outdoors is a distinct experience that lends itself well to square nudes. Away from the studio, the confines of finite backgrounds are absent, so we are free of their rectangular proportions. The crop of the image is not limited to the edge of an artificial backdrop. In these images, we find ourselves either in the wilderness or on the edge of it, where traces of our encroachment blend with natural beauty.
An abundance of compositional elements are possible in every direction and extending to the horizon. The nude is at home in nature. Emily and Tess before sunrise. Alora in the sand and surf. Hope in river water and a blooming field. Hope on a deserted road, shot through a fish-eye lens.
When our communities retreat from our encroachment on nature, the result is an abandoned place that becomes an opportunity for an unusual kind of figure photograph. The setting underscores what human beings are: part civilized, part animal. Emily on an abandoned bridge at sunset. Emily with a modern table in a disused government building. The table is hand crafted wood. Through the window, a building across the alley is visible. Special thanks to the maker of the table and shop owner who helped us access this rich location. Hope, multiple exposures, at an abandoned Buddhist monastery. Hope on the rooftop of the monastery.
At a construction site for a new high-speed rail, Jorgie Mason poses in and around a large concrete pipe. The manufactured curve contrasts and complements the natural curves of her body. As with the wooden frame presented earlier in this collection, the pipe provides a construct of equal height and width to fit snugly in these pages. A circle aligned squarely with the lens frames the model against the horizontal lines of the buildings behind her. A hint of the natural world pokes through in the mid-ground. Both inside and outside the cement structure, its light, smooth surface provides ample reflection, contributing to the lighting. The late afternoon sun provides deep shadows and dramatic shading.
In the same way the square props provide structure to studio poses, other settings offer compositional elements that suggest this shape. Lines and blocks of color invite the body to align with or break across them. The edge of the couch, the corner of the room, the baseboards, all create geometric planes that can be arranged to contrast with and surround the figure. Alora poses in front of square glass bricks reflected in a mirror and the right angle of a dividing wall.
Kate Snig perches on a sofa. These were shot in a borrowed space while visiting Montreal. I am amazed with what she was able to produce in the limited space. Kate finds horizontal alignment with the varying widths of the design behind her. Monika strikes compressed poses on the reflective floor with geometric sunbeams projecting on the nearby wall.
In a borrowed studio in Montreal, Canada, Polish model and art student Monika strikes a variety of poses on our sole prop furniture, a bright red sofa. A range of garments accent her limbs; black stockings and garter, high heels, and smooth leather knee-high boots. I see Monika‘s choice of attire and posture as challenging traditional ideas of femininity and modesty while simultaneously maintaining a sense of mystery.
By choosing footwear that spans the extremes from high heels to heavy boots, this talented model was able to improvise a range of moods. Artists have used red as a strong color to demand attention. In these images, Monika is either framed on all sides by the blazing color or she sits perched atop it. Her deliberate choice of limb placement and direct expression maintain a balance with the bright couch, commanding our attention back to her. Faint tones of blue light splashed on the wall provide a cool contrast to the hot crimson.
In a borrowed painter’s studio, on a single day, model Jorgie Mason filled this small space with her energetic posing. The glass brick window serves as a backdrop. The floor is strewn with bits of paint, oil, turpentine, debris, and what seem to be bits of the floor itself. Jorgie’s posing instinct was unbridled. Even cleaning the posing area yielded multiple shots before she put the broom away. This session was full of movement, including several airborne maneuvers.
Some musical equipment stored nearby provided ready props, with the added challenge for the model trying to be innovative within a pervasive theme. The painter’s easel made for an unusual theatrical partner. Even the floor itself was enough to inspire a pose. Continuing the theme of color contrast, the ice blue bricks of the window stand out distinctly from the model’s bronze skin.
The photography studio offers the ultimate in control over lighting and situation. Alexis balances against a truck tire. This large and heavy round rubber prop was good for bringing out muscle-flexing positions. Upper right, posing with a metal chain. The chain obeys gravity but also acts as a pendulum. This provided a subtle bit of unpredictability. Using two chains allowed both symmetrical and asymmetrical arrangements.
Alexis on a velvet sofa in anything but a typical sitting pose. Tess poses with three identical inflatable spheres. Later, Tess balances a single sphere in her hand while leaning dynamically into the pose. Emily creates triangular shapes with her arms in a floor pose. Marissa employs motion to create sweeping curves with fabric. Anna poses in mesh gloves, and Emily is juxtaposed with her guitar.
Hope poses on a raised platform. This simple prop, draped with dark fabric, provides a plane of rest for the model and the opportunity to place parts of her body both above and below it. This opens options for poses that cannot be done on the floor.
Diagonal lines bisect the frame in the first of four variations on this theme. A crouched position fills the square.
An outstretched leg and tilted head draw attention through the image. Lower left, a raised arm creates an understated change in the focus of the pose. Hope poses with a small square block.