Recent Work: Jo

Jo Rose is a multi-talented Durham-based burlesque performer, producer, aerialist, model…the list goes on. It’s hard to over-sell Jo, because she’s just so damn good at everything she does. She’s also a friend and my other photographic partner-in-crime, so I may be bit biased.

I see my collaborations as being a two-way street. Sometimes I have a concept, sometimes the ideas come from my subjects. This session is the latter. During the shoot before I asked the question, “What is your bucket-list shoot?,” to which Jo responded, “Outdoors, in the cold.”

Fortunately, it was late Fall and cold was in abundance. I also had access to several acres of secluded, privately-owned bamboo and woodlands to work with. But it did present two challenges. First, I’m not a huge fan of cold and I never ask a subject to do something I wouldn’t do myself, so shooting in the mid-40s was a bit out of my comfort zone. NO ONE should have to suffer for your art. If you’re that kind of photographer, you can fuck right off.

Second, it was going to involve my nemesis: natural light.

I do not like natural light. I can’t move it. I can’t shape it. I can’t bend it to my will. There is precious little I can do to modify it. It causes all kinds of weird color casts that are a pain to mitigate in post. I like my studio strobes. They’re consistent. I can put them where I want, then move them again to create another look. And they’re color balanced. But natural light? It’s inflexible.

Kind of like a particular photographer I shall not name. Ahem…

But in the words of the prophet, “Stop learning, start dying.” I like my comfort zone, but you don’t grow by staying inside it. Plus, I had already started dabbling in natural light portraiture and going outdoors was the logical next step. So into the natural light we go.

The light was wonderfully soft and that background blur is just so damn bokehlicous! Plus, the green canopy and bamboo led to all sorts of color casts, which I either had to learn how to deal with in post or just learn to accept as the price of shooting outdoors (I need to do a rant on that). Most of these were taken with my OM System OM-1 and the Olympus 45mm f/1.2 PRO. Photographers who say “You can’t get good bokeh with micro four thirds” can also fuck right off. Respectfully, of course.

My favorite image from the session:

My favorite image from the session and my favorite type of processing:

And who doesn’t love natural light that looks like studio lighting?:

The sun parted just enough to spotlight Jo in this brilliant shaft of light. Jo may have the best clavicles in the Piedmont, so bravo, sun, for showing them off!

As I type we’re planning on returning when the weather warms, which might be as soon as this weekend. As fun as the session was, it was not sustainable. “Sustainability” is a term that was drilled into my head in my rope bondage days and one that sadly too few photographers are familiar with. Talk to your models: ask if a pose or an environment is sustainable. If it isn’t: either stop shooting or tip them 50%. Modeling isn’t easy and if you’re thinking only about your art or getting the shot you are ignoring what really makes the image a success. I may be a hobbyist these days, but I still take this shit seriously.

And if you are going out in the cold, bring them the warmest, fluffiest thing you own.


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