life . Portrait . street

Madison, WI


Fontana Giusti

My month in creativity - March
Toying with inspiration and "new" tools

In February I got consumed with tangible creativity projects as I was processing the images and materials I brought back from my week in Mexico City when my mood needed the extra vitamin D.

And I’m still not done with that project, otherwise you might have read something about it… Maybe one day, let’s not lose all hope.

But as weeks passed, and we moved onto the month of March, I was having trouble doing – doing anything to be honest – and so I got myself a new travel project, because that’s the surest way to get me out of a rut. So at some point in the summer I will tackle a multi-day hike in my beloved Val d’Aosta, that little region in Italy at the border of France and Switzerland with the highest peaks in Europe. I’ve set my sights on the southern part, crossing the Gran Paradiso National Park and Mont Avic Natural Park. While I’ve roamed the Mont Avic quite a bit, the Gran Paradiso has been calling my name for years but I’m just now deciding to finally answer the call. Anyways, all this to say that in March instead of creating with intention, I’ve been getting into moving my body more, training for steep days.

With that in mind, I haven’t really paid attention to the monthly prompt, but in our group there were also many calls to play and imitate. I won’t get into all of these calls, but those I made a point to answer. And I’ll show you just a few of them.

Irving Penn - portrait of Marlene Dietrich, 1948

This month, Amy posted a few works from masters to imitate with our tools and what we had on hand. There were a few abstract pieces and a few paintings, and I participated in most of these, but the one that really struck a chord for me was this one.

It must be said, before I write anything else, that I adore everything Irving Penn. I own his centennial monograph book, and it’s an endless source of inspiration. Every time I open that book, I find new ideas – not to mention that I’m obsessed with his narrow angle studio setup and I regularly entertain the possibility to build one for myself…

Any ways, yes, I spent a lot of time on this picture, because the lighting is truly remarkable, simple, but also very stricking, and not that easy to replicate.

I used to lights for my own versions (below): a strobe with modifier to light up the subject, and a small flash pointing at the backdrop at a narrow angle, on its upper right corner.

I liked it so much I photographed Adriano as well in this setup. My self portrait was made with my textured white backdrop, draped in my crinkle black small muslin. Adriano I photographed draped in a dark blue wool cape I bought at the fleas in Mexico, in front of my very large muslin painted in ethereal blue (a mix of periwinkle, purple, and baby blue).

That third one is my favorite, it’s so pure…

The three were photographed on digital with my Olympus OMD-EM1, which is the camera I use for picture day – in case anyone was wondering.

Poor Things' otherworldly photography

It took me long enough, but yes, in March I finally watched Poor Things, and it inspired me in ways I was not expecting.

They used a variety of experimental lenses to achieve the amazing photography of the movie, but the one I got really interested in was the petzval lens they used in close, “portrait” shots. The swirly bokeh is out of this world, and it got me thinking…

It got me thinking indeed, because it turns out that I own a swirly bokeh lens, but I just never got to use it, waiting for the perfect project, and then forgetting about it in my lens collection box (yes, I have a box where I store my lenses, and the collection is not as bad as you’d expect).

However, although I never used it in its normal state, I got into using it with the front lens element flipped, which by the way is classic me – “I don’t know how to use something, but let me start with the modification, that’s an oddity, and consider it my training…”

It turns out, using that modified lens is quite difficult, and I set myself to using it with Adriano, so for portraits, and fixed on Moritz’s old Canon DSLR (which isn’t full frame), so it was a bit frustrating, but the images I got out of it are so lovely, I think it was worth the effort. I just love lo-fi lenses!

Here is one of these images, once in colour, because they look soft and pretty, and also in black-and-white, because it looks gritty and timeless, and I honestly cannot decide which version I like better.

And then, I also talked Adriano into imitating one of the posters for Poor Things, where Bella’s face is made up with color paint.

Adriano chose his make-up colors – yellow, what else? – and I did the rest. 

Finally, because I wanted to see what this lens setup was capable of on a full frame, I propped it on my Canon Elan7, loaded the camera with a roll of expired FujiC200 of unknown provenance, and went on a late winter walk on the shores of lake Wingra. The only interesting thing to photograph were the cattails, because this is the season when plants don’t want to wake up too early, and it doesn’t make for a great subject, but beauty can still be found if you look closely. And yes this lens is a magical weirdo: 

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