This summer has been an interesting one. Besides the huge amount of rain we have been getting here in Indiana I have had the pleasure to work with a fantastic group of students at Indiana University. Earlier this year I was approached with a challenge – to create a series of art imagery for an organization that was setting up under the TEDx branding. Because of licensing there were hoops that they had to navigate to get agreement from the University. Many of their problems centered around the use of IU or Indiana Universities name in their branding as it infringed on the name of the University. Fortunately the The first wife of IU, Michael McRobbie’s wife, Laurie Burns, stepped in and helped smooth over any concerns.
Once I had the blessing of licensing the next step was understanding what their expectations were, as simply providing stock art was possible, though I much preferred to have a driven concept to carry through the entire series. Ari Stoner, my liaison with TEDx Indiana University, stated that he loved my landscape imagery and would like me to develop a concept for their website. In addition, he also asked that I create the portraits of the five team members.
As I am working without a large studio I found this later request a bit of a challenge. To solve this I had to find a place where I could set up that was close for everyone and offered space to shoot. I considered perhaps renting studio space or setting up in my my small studio that I occasionally use for portraits. In the end I was able to set up at the Carmichael Center who I have to personally thank for being so accommodating.
As for the art, I took a nudge from what they were looking for – energy and movement. This concept for me translated into by dragging the shutter where possible to show movement through a space and creating a sense of presence. This for me was important for it offered a unique chance to offer the viewer a sense of being present in the image and sensing time moving even though we tend to experience time linearly, moment to moment. The unique chance to see or experience a segment of time as a distinct segment that is lost once it occurs helps to further grow that sense of presence. To prevent redundancy I chose variations on lighting, angles, and was selective as to what image I would include people. What was important here was that I allowed myself the flexibility to evolve the series while keeping the shutter slow.
Having worked around campus in the past I knew this wouldn’t be finished in an hour or a day. Obstacles that I found myself navigating included construction, students working on projects and even construction equipment. In all I estimate the 6 landscape images took between thirty to forty hours to wrap. In the end, what we were left with were a series that met or exceeded the expectations of the client.
For the landscape images I planned a series of five images. A sixth image that was planned had to be abandoned due to construction. Trees that were recently planted, and newly lampposts that transected the horizontal plane split the scene into too many distracting planes that took away from what was once a very unique water sculpture in front of the School of Music. Instead, I opted to use stock photography for the school of music image that I had composed several years earlier.
I do have to comment that sometimes the best intentions can go awry. With the case of the music school the updated landscaping effectively hid the main feature in front of the school – the fountain. This was a huge disappointment as the morning light was gorgeous and the clouds in the background were phenomenal. This is an example of where sometimes one simply needs to walk away. Seen above (in order) are IU’s Sample Gates, Kelly School of Business, Auditorium, Franklin Hall, IMU Student Union, IMU Biddle Hotel, and School of Music.
For the series of five images, seen to the right, I wanted to approach this series with lighting from the side using grids to prevent light spill. This allowed me the ability to balance the shadow and highlight’s in such a way as to provide good separation from the background and enhance the depth of field. For my main key lighting I used a five foot hexagonal soft box to create soft lighting that wrapped around the subjects. Pictured, from left to right, is Ben Brattain, Daniel Morgan, Alex Peacock, Ari Stoner, and Dmitry Simakov.