Recent Work: Bodyscapes with Ivy

The prevailing theme for 2023 is: Keep it Small, Keep it Simple. I have an awesome rapport with the people I work with and our collective working style tends to be loose and free-flowing. We’ll go into a session with an idea we want to explore and after a while the shoot ultimately devolves into whatever the heck we want to do. It is the photographic equivalent of brainstorming (“there are no bad ideas”) and a great way to work.

If there is a downside, it’s that we don’t take the time to really workshop something. We know we can pull a particular concept off – after all, there is proof right here on the SD card – but we don’t really explore the concept.

Which brings us back to Keep it Small, Keep it Simple. 2023 is about workshopping those ideas. Moving from “I think this has potential” to “let’s nail this sucker down so we can repeat it, without fail, whenever we like.” Bodyscapes is one of those concepts.

And what better way to spend a Friday afternoon than workshopping bodyscapes with Ivy Sublime:

I employed a one-light setup: a gridded Godox 9″x 35″ softbox for punch and later an un-grided Glow HexaPop 24″ softbox for a softer look. Neither of these lighting modifiers had seen any use in the last couple of years, but they are both hella portable and would fit perfectly in Ivy’s home rehearsal space.

I have used a rim light in the past to create additional definition, but in the spirit of KISKIS we just let fly with the single strip light for maximum shadows:

I’m not sure where I first heard it (I’ve been doing this for 40 years and have forgotten a lot of stuff), but if you remember one thing about photography it is that light illuminates, shadows define. Nowhere is this more important than in bodyscapes. Have you ever seen a badly lit sculpture? Look up Michaleangelo’s David, a truly magnificent work marred (in my humble opinion) by some truly wretched lighting. There is sooooo much going on there, from the jaw-dropping curls on his head to the strong, veined hands to his bomb-ass abs, and yet when I see photos all I can think is: “naked dude.” Today David is less an artwork and more a tourist destination so it makes sense that he’d be over-lit for better viewing by the punters, but by throwing that much light you don’t really get a sense of the craftsmanship involved. You just get naked dude.

We clearly do not have a future in lighting monumental statuary for the masses, because we let the shadows do all of the talking. And to give us even more shadows to play with, we deployed Ivy’s digits with a vengeance. If I were a more pretentious artiste I would exclaim, “The nude form?! I assure you, this is nothing more than a light study of the singular piece of anatomy that renders humans superior to housecats, you philistine.”

X-T3 | 50mm | 1/250sec | f/5.6 | ISO-160

Towards the end of the sessions I switched to the 24″ octabox, which softened the shadows for a more delicate, almost painterly look:

X-T3 | 33mm | 1/250sec | f/5.6 | ISO-160
X-T3 | 33mm | 1/250sec | f/5.6 | ISO-160

The 24″ octa creates much more even illumination and softer shadows. It led to some gorgeous captures.

For the first true Keep it Small, Keep it Simple shoot of 2023, I am extremely pleased with the results. Moreover, I am extremely pleased by the way that I kept to the goals we had set. I love experimentation, but I also know that “experimentation” and “Chris learning something to the point where he can reproduce it at a moment’s notice” can be mutually exclusive. Many thank to Ivy for taking to time to workshop bodyscapes with me.