New Series

I moved into the new apartment towards the end of summer 2005. I finally had an apartment big enough to have a small studio, in addition being old enough so I had some interesting features to work in. I set about making my home/studio easier to work in, sheers on the windows. I kept the living-room/studio free from clutter, like any comfortable chairs to sit in. But I had my space to grow older, to pursue my art, and I finally had my office. Life looked very good for me, I was pleased with the plans I had, looked forward to my first shoot over the winter holidays.

That October I had the stroke that laid me low. The deal I made with my self-destructive side, take your best shot at taking me. If…, if I survive, then get the hell out of my way. Little did I count on having to try to reverse the effects of stroke. All strokes are particular to the patient, mine was a blockage in the left side of my brain. Right side of my body, flaccid, absolute paralysis. Confined to a wheelchair, only left side of my body could move. Only one side of my brain was functional, I was in deep shit.

So the deal with the devil was made, I kept to the bargain, doctors, nurses were telling all my visitors not to get too excited about any progress they saw. I on the other hand, not knowing what they thought they knew, I went ahead to try and reestablish the me I knew. Took the better part of twelve (12) years, fighting for every return to body, and mind. Now the harm to my body has healed as best it can, my two sides are now out of balance. My mind…, my mind too has healed as best it can, I count on the plasticity to seek out those pathways back to me. My brain is still injured deeply, that’s where the damage still haunts.

So the new series came as a blessing, both for mind and creativity. I have worked hard at getting the creativity back in as good a shape as possible. Enter model, muse, friend, to save me, to give me hope. It demand a model who knows me, trust me, believe in my vision…, and believes in me as a man. This my first attempt at a series of found objects in nature, and very private spaces on the female body. The working title “Natural Curves”, a juxtaposition of bark, seeds, pods…, wherever I can find in nature with there wonderful curves, set next to the bodies curves. The whiteness of her body, the darkness in the object. The play of light, darkness, enticing curves of the most intimate nature.

So with this as my background, I began setting up my home studio. It was the easiest setup I ever done, called on all my years working with the professionals. I had the depth of my living room to set the muslin background complete with a sort of drop shadow, taken from endless product shoots. I fashioned a comfortable table for my model to try different poses for the areas I wanted to use. Those areas had been determined by a test we had as to feasibility. This setup for the main event, the actual shoot where she has to hold the pose, and the object in place. We shot film as well, for the lighting, and background.

I’ve had to curb my model from posting these test shots. Next comes the hard work of the actual shoot which will be so much better, but for a test these look so good . I have to curb my own enthusiasm, more as we progress.

Lessons Learned

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This image was shot in 2003, the model and I had worked together for sometime, getting to this image. She was by no means a professional model, fresh off the farm literally. When we first met I remember a very determined young woman weaving her way over to where I was sitting. As I watched her approach I was thinking like a photographer, very tall (good), a little awkward, part of the fresh face appeal (good/bad), wanting her dream…, so very apparent. For me the training, investment in time, and not if, but how soon would she be able to do nude work.

We agreed to meet for coffee, she had an unfortunate incident that morning, and was stuck at home, could I meet her apartment? My book has my look, and the models are in various state of undress, I never hide who I am. She asked, “how do you get them nude)? I ask, is the simple answer. So we set our first shoot, what I wanted as a photographer was clear in her mind. We worked very well, any misgiving she might of had, vanished in the face of my professionalism. We became fast friends, I showed her every piece of film I shot, I treated her with respect, and her trust level grew. The odd misinformation about what I shot for me, and what I was doing for her. Had a newspaper piece in her hometown press about a parade that she had a part in as a Bird of Paradise. All novice miscommunication, and the trust grew.

 

Then came the shoot that changed everything. She was getting bored with what we were shooting, any fear of being nude had passed…, and she was ready for something more challenging. I suggested a far more intimate and personal pose. Her first answer was an emphatic no, but I could see the wheels turning in her head. This was the ultimate challenge fear/fact of life she was facing. That she had consider this type of image in her thinking both worried me, and pleased me that she was considering my suggestion. To my delight she said if she was going to do this, she had to be comfortable.

So I was privileged to photograph this special moment in this woman life, freely, and without question. Oh the questions she had, that flitted through her mind, overwhelmed by wave of pleasure, and alarm. Afterwards, small ripples of pleasure came across her, and I was thinking how special this moment was for me too. I had been privileged to photograph her doing something so intimate and special. That she was a “nice” girl, a “good” girl who could be so harmed if I was not to do the right thing by her. Say what you will, it was my responsibility to hold this lady, this girl from harm by exposing her.Now years after the fact we are great friends. She never posed for anyone this way after, we’ve had the time and distance to be able to put this shoot in perspective.  I have managed to assure her of confidentiality, and my respect for what she decided to share with me.

My work really is about a partnership, a working relationship that puts the model more in touch with what is happening to their images.  Each model works with me in a collaborative manner, and no one is paid for their time until I sell.  If they choose not to give me an email address, or choose to just ignore me, they have that right to privacy; all the rights and responsibility remain in place. I will do everything I promised getting them to pose for me in the first place.  I believe that it is the only way to work. Because of the special nature of the images I take of these women we have developed a special bond that endures to this day, as do the friendship we have developed.

Profile: Ruby

 

My latest background, and model Ruby, from the Farm Shoot.  First time working together, took her to an old farm some friends rented.  I warned my model that I didn’t know what we would find when we got to the location.  First time I had used the farm as well, not sure as to how much privacy we would have; so we might end-up having a nice lunch with cold wine to wash it down.  Let them know when I was on property, that we’d say hello after.

Ruby and I set to work, getting comfortable with each other, and the way we worked.  I was very pleased, relived to find she had very good poses, and looked terrific in motion.  Funny how this was a “still” shoot, yet her movements were wonderful.  That’s something I work hard to capture, that playful exuberance only the young have.  We played with each other, or rather she played for the camera, I was just attached.  I will upload them as I find the time to give each one the attention it deserves.

A word or two about the backgrounds, in a break from traditional plain white matts for each print.  I craft a unique background matting for each print, or you can have that plain white border if you rather.  The image was created using real film that was scanned to PhotoShop, with the traditional techniques in the handling.  The backgrounds are a product of PhotoShop, and are crafted to compliment my images.

I try for a certain balance, a zen like feel; Ma the Japaneses words for, “it is the thing that takes place in the imagination of the human who experiences these elements”.  Like an old friend, seen in the mind-eye wearing their favorite outfit.  Get to know my works for who they represent, the creative mind behind the images.

 

Michael Retro

Welcome to a retro look at my work, you are invited to stop, look around and see what you like. Polite comments are welcome, but remember your manners please. A few words about how I work, I use traditional film, where possible available light. I come from a photo-journalist background so my work is only retouched the way I would process in the darkroom; darken here, hold back the light there, spot the prints. With real film what is on the negative is what you get, so NO special effects are being used in the manipulation of my negatives or prints. In the end my product is really just a matter of time and light.

This, more personal side of my work as well as some of the model’s who have worked with me. I have been shooting intimate photographs of women for what feels like all my life. I am very motivated by the sensuality of the body and mind. I truly value each of the model’s I’ve had the good fortune to share a collaboration to produce the work that you see. These young women trust me to do right by them, and I am very protective of their rights. My model’s each get a percentage of the sale price for each and every piece of art sold of our work. Each of my model’s privacy is respected, anonymity or the use of a stage name is entirely at the model’s discretion.

Good model’s work hard, sometimes under trying situations , nekked to boot. It’s an investment of time, both hers and mine, and that indescribable chemistry that may coax the magic to strike. One can never tell, sometimes the most promising of model’s: no spark. The fact that they are unclothed should matter as an afterthought and not the primary focus. A final word on the term “my girls”, its not meant in a paternalist fashion nor does it imply ownership any sort. A very fragile and very special bond is formed when a man and a woman work together so intimate a manner, and that trust should never be violated.

So once again welcome, get to know my girls. What it is that makes them tick, to carve out a space for them to be them. I invite you into their lives and minds at a particular time and place.

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