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In the Narrative Portraiture series, photographer and teacher Chris Orwig explores the use of elements such as location and natural light to create images that tell stories about their subjects and produce a strong emotional connection. In this installment, Chris visits Rodney Smith, a photographer whose work is known for its graceful serenity and its wit. Rodney's career spans more than four decades and includes editorial, fashion, and advertising work, as well as several books.
The course begins with a wide-ranging conversation between Chris and Rodney, during which they discuss Rodney's work, his approach to photography and models, his love of film and of black and white, and the importance of creating photographs that both ask questions and tell stories. Next, Chris tours Rodney Smith's studio, including the darkroom, to get more familiar with Rodney before photographing him.
Chris then takes a series of portraits of Rodney. Along the way, he reviews his gear choices and the compositional decisions he makes, and discusses the importance of committing photographs to paper, particularly in today's digital age. Finally, Chris reviews the images and shares some insights from his conversation with Rodney.
Are you ready for your next assignment idea? Well, this one I think will be challenging and interesting. Here is what it is. The overarching idea is to create ten fashion photographs. Now, let me explain what I mean by this. You know, typically when we talk about fashion photography, we think of those images that are really loud. They are almost overdone; they are surreal. Well, that's not what I want you to do; rather, I want you to try to create fashion that's subtle, that's simple, perhaps maybe even authentic.
What I want you to do is to try to create images where you're almost cultivating the look, rather than forcing it. You know, Rodney does this a lot in his work; like with this picture here, they're wearing nice clothes-- it is indeed a lot about fashion--but the details of the fashion don't speak too loudly. There are more layers. There's more going on. So again, we are going to try to create ten photographs, and I want to do this in two sets of five. Now, for the first pictures, again, create and think about photographs or creating photographs that have that subtle style, where you're using fashion and clothes to tell a distinct story, a quiet story.
And then in the second five, in those same clothes, with that same wardrobe, do something perhaps just a little bit different. Somehow block the face of the model. And we've seen this in Rodney's work quite often where he has someone sticking their head perhaps in the bushes; or they have their hat and it's tipped over, covering their face; or maybe they're holding something up, so you can't see what they look like. So again, to reiterate, here's the assignment: create ten fashion photographs.
The first five, you are really just focusing on trying to create subtle fashion, not over-the-top, simple, straightforward, comfortable. Then in the second five, experiment a little bit; see what you can do to create pictures where you're hiding the model's face.
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