Monthly Archives: April 2010

Robin Preston

I attended a presentation the other day where the main speaker was professional photographer Robin Preston, who gave a talk on a recent ‘shoot’  that he has been working on in Las Vegas; a project entitled "The Last Supper"; a 50’s styled project.

Although Robin is a professional photographer he describes himself more as a digital artist, or to use his words, "an image maker". A lot of his work centres around image manipulation, retouching, montages and anything involving creative work using Adobe Photoshop. He has been in the industry around 30 years and has a lot client’s in the motor industry as well as many others.

Although the presentation was about the project in Las Vegas, he went onto explain the similarities of the 50’s style project  with his own private art project called ‘laboratorium’, where he is exploring sub cultures in Europe, such as the rockabilly movement; and their lifestyle, clothing tattoos and sub cultures within those. “The Last Supper’” project was the idea of creating “Leonardo da Vinci’s” painting of “The last Supper” but using 13 50’s style pin-up girls in a classical American Diner and shot on good Friday (although technically the last supper would be a Thursday?).

Anyway Robin started off the presentation by explaining his business model for the project; how he was able to secure equipment and how he marketed the project to prospective sponsors, by creating a short video detailing the concept. Once the sponsorship had been secured and the project confirmed, Robin talked about the logistics of completing a location shoot in Vegas. Finding the location, securing models, accommodation, equipment , assistants and so on. As he was talking he had created a ‘visual narrative’ of slides in an editorial style documenting the timeline of the project, explaining the stages of the shoot. Robin explained that all of the models used were from all over the world and were 50’s and rockabilly enthusiasts; most wearing their own clothes during the shoot, and not just clothes they dress up for fun, but the clothes they wear in their daily lives! The presentation continued and he explained about the harsh sunlight in Vegas and the problems that this caused, even inside the diner; creating hard shadows and making it difficult to expose. He explained that it was a ‘tough’ shoot with a lot of models, assistants, equipment, as well as the people who owned the location; and not forgetting the actual taking of the photos and all to be done in one day!

The rest of the presentation was about the following days after this shoot where he attended the “Viva Las Vegas” Rockabilly weekend festival where he continued his study into this fascinating sub culture. There were some really interesting images, I especially liked a lot of the photographs of people’s tattoos; they were a big part of the culture and the art in some of them were so detailed. Another big part of the culture was these amazing custom cars that reminded me of the film “American Graffiti” . For robin though, his highlight was being able to photograph Chuck Berry who played at the festival. A very interesting character who gave me some very inspirational ideas for future projects.

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Irving Penn – National Portrait Gallery

I was aware that the Irving Penn (1917-2009) portraits exhibition was on at the National Portrait Gallery in London. I had been planning to go in a few weeks, however I had an unexpected free day today. Taking advantage of some nice weather I decided to head into London with the camera and work on some personal projects and street photography. I hadn’t booked for the exhibition but thought I would just chance it anyway; and as it happened, I went straight in.

The exhibition was setup as different sections, with each being a different period of his portrait work, from the 1940’s to 2007. All of the portrait work on display were in black and white.

I found his earlier periods the most interesting out of the exhibition. Much of the work (especially around 1947-1948) was conducted in simplistic studio setups with very few props and simple lighting (The exhibition notes said that he used ‘tungsten’ lights as well as natural light); At most there was a Chair and some old plain carpet for much of this earlier work. Some of the images also had old thread and dirt scattered around the floors. I think the idea was to take the subject ‘out’ of their context and therefore concentrate you onto the subjects expressions and actions within the frames.

In some of this earlier work he had also used a narrow corner, with the subject in the apex of this confined space; I really enjoyed these and the way you were drawn into the image and focused onto each subject. The other notable thing about his earlier periods was that much (not all) of the photographs showed the subject more fully (head to toe) or not cropped in close.

In the 1950’s his work remained very simple but the frame appeared to be much closer on the faces with more head and shoulder framed images unlike the earlier work. There were some interesting framing on some of these; one that stuck in my mind was of the young Richard Burton. The frame cuts through his head and his hand almost dominated the image. Another photograph that stuck in my mind was that of Grace Kelly; Probably  to do with her contemporary beauty. In the 1960’s portrait work seemed to have stayed with the closer compositions, concentrating on face and expressions, I noticed in many of the portraits that the catch lights in the eyes appeared to be the reflections of windows. I could be mistaken, but that’s what it looked like to me.

The 1970’s onwards he appeared to get closer still to the face and in more of them the lighting seemed to be harder, creating darker shadows.  

I really enjoyed the exhibition but thought that the earlier work up to the 1960’s was much more interesting overall; I especially liked the work he did in 1947-1948 with the stark studio setups.


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