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In the Douglas Kirkland on Photography series, well-known photographer Douglas Kirkland explores a variety of real-world photographic scenarios, sharing technique insights and critiquing the results.
This installment follows Douglas as he creates a portrait for Kodak's On Film series, which features portraits of directors, cinematographers, and other major players in the film industry. Douglas has shot nearly 250 portraits for this series over the past 20 years.
The course begins with a discussion of the unique qualities of film—its clarity, definition, and tonal range—and of film's enduring importance in today's digital world. Next, Douglas tours the Mamiya RZ67 medium-format camera, demonstrating its components and comparing its format to 35mm film. He then demonstrates a variety of lighting, posing, and styling techniques while photographing Owen Roizman, an award-winning cinematographer, in the Kirkland studio in Los Angeles, California.
The course concludes with a critique of the resulting photographs. Douglas also shows how he resized and cropped the image to fit a print advertisement.
So I started my career shooting film, and I'm still doing it today. I love digital, yes, but I shoot film frequently. I do it with a big 8x10 camera, but I also do it with the medium format. The individuals whom we photograph for Kodak are all people who have worked with Kodak motion picture film, and do continue to today. For this series, which is called On Film, we've been doing one of them a month for 20 years. They are about 250 of them almost at this point, and it's quite a history, but it's all been done with film, and they've chosen to do it all in black and white.
It's used in various places, but American Cinematographer is one of the magazines that you'll always find a cover, a back cover rather, from this work. Now we have different individuals here. These are the contact prints. Look at that. That's the size of the film. We use a loop, because we look down and we can see, make choices, and then when we make choices we mark them this way. And then our finals, we take a set of these to the client over at Kodak. We have got duplicates.
We've made two contacts of each. I keep one, she keeps the other, and we both mark up our choices. And when the choice is made, I bring it back here, we scan it, and we do whatever retouching is necessary. And then what we do--and you'll watch me do it a little later-- is we size it exactly to the size that's going to be used, and we take it to them, and we deliver it to them, as they used to say as an old-fashioned expression, camera ready. I want you to come with us as we spend the afternoon working with a great cinematographer who is renowned and a legend in the world of motion pictures.
His name is Owen Roizman. He is responsible for films such as French Connection and The Exorcist and many, many more, a great man. And you will watch as I come in and work with him and try to keep it fluid because my ultimate job is to get a great image. I must be able to do it with this camera, and the camera must be part of me, so I can concentrate on Owen and speak with him as I shoot. And part of the key will be being able to put your head into two places. You know what you have to do technically and you should do it, but you also have to connect with your subject--very, very important.
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