by Shawna Black
The one subject that I have always been praised for by various photography instructors and observers of my work is portraiture. I have shot many portraits over the years. The most recent are of my kids and you’ll be seeing many more of them in the future.
Today, though, I will tell you what I love about this shot of Felicia. She was my friend, Jerry’s girlfriend; very pretty girl. She had long curly blonde hair, beautiful eyes and perfect skin. And I had an assignment. I asked her if she’d let me photograph her and she agreed. The idea for this shoot had already been composed in my mind. I knew I would take the shots in the dining room of the apartment that I shared with my sister, using one floodlight as my light source and a white sheet tacked to the wall as the backdrop. I also knew that she’d be wearing a black lace shirt that I owned, lost somewhere in the back of my closet. I knew that my Grandfather’s antique chair would be involved, the same chair that is still floating around the family somewhere.
I experienced my first photography class when I was a freshman in high school. That was a long time ago, twenty-four years to be exact. My first “real” camera was a Canon that my father bought me. I wore that Canon out throughout high school. When I started my college photography classes, I decided it was time for a new camera. I bought a Nikon FM, a completely manual model, on the recommendation of my instructor. I have always shot by manually setting the f-stop and shutter speed based on the lighting conditions. I got very good at judging light. To this day I don’t own nor do I know how to use a light meter.
It wasn’t long after I started my second semester of photography classes at the local community college that I got the bug for a square negative. I’d read articles, talked to my instructors and paid attention to what the other students were using. I found a Hasselblad for sale in the paper, called the guy and made my purchase about three days later. I was now the proud owner of a medium format camera.
I used the Hasselblad when I photographed Felicia. I attached the camera to the tri-pod, set up the floodlight and filled that square to best of my ability. I shot one roll of 12-exposure t-max 100. When I was ready to take the picture, I composed it in the viewfinder, filling the entire square. As I was taking this picture, I knew I wanted to print it without losing any of the image in the neg. I knew that if my negative carrier were slightly larger than the negative, the result would be a ragged black border around the perimeter of the picture. Those black lines worked perfectly with my subject and composition. The composition turned out exactly as I had hoped. The lighting was as perfect as the exposure itself. As the image came to life in the tray of developer, even under the red light of the darkroom, I knew the shot was exactly as I had envisioned.
This is Felicia. She is one of my better portraits. [click for larger image]
Shawna writes and shows off her photography at My Opinions are Free
Film and Developer appears every other Saturday. On alternating Saturdays, we feature: