Sunday, January 4, 2009

Working with light

This is Martha Goldman. She's a very talented artist specializing in the Japanese Manga style of art, living in Joplin, Mo. I was assigned to photograph her Saturday for a feature for one of the papers I work for.

Literally translated, the term Manga means whimsical or fanciful pictures. It's a style of art which became popular in Japan following World War II. There are several theories concerning the development and growth in popularity of the art form.

There's one thought it grew out of the sudden influx of Walt Disney cartoons and comic books following the war. Another theory proposes Manga art was a reaction to the horrors of war, including the dropping of two atomic bombs on the country, Martha says.

When I received the assignment, I tried to previsualize what I wanted to do. I knew a little bit about Manga art going in. I had an idea of how I wanted to make the photo for the story.

For the lighting setup, I used one strobe high and to camera right with a red gel. A second strobe, to camera left, was set up with a home-made snoot - a tube that goes over the flash head and focuses the light into a smaller beam - to illuminate just Martha's face. Both were triggered with radio slaves.

I'd started out with a blue gel on the overhead light, but that just wasn't working for me. And, while it's a perfectly good, standard pose, Martha's position in the image in relation to her painting behind her was just too static. It didn't portrait the fun, whimsical nature of her work or of her personality.

As I went to swap out the blue gel for the red, I noticed a pile of hats on top of a book shelf. I grabbed the hat she's wearing in the final image and placed it on her head. The next image was working better, but something was still missing.

She'd mentioned she made the little cat doll herself, so I asked her to pick it up. She initially held it on her lap, so I asked her to bring it up under her chin. That simple motion immediately added the fanciful air I was looking for to the pose.

If you want to see more of Martha's work, you can visit her website at:

No comments: