Among the Ancient Gods (an art photo shoot)
Post contains some fine art nudity [partial nudity]. Be warned. 18+ only).
After all the editing work on the book “Bequia – the Feast of Colours”, I needed to unwind. The book went off to our printers, and me – as I often do in such moments – I decided for an art shoot. Such shoots where I can let my fantasy loose, help me bring back my balance and recover energy. As it happened, my friend and fantastic artists’ model, Michael Ward, had just recently suggested to shoot an image based on Greek and Roman mythology.
He had a concept for a large, festive scene, and I myself had already been thinking for a while of shooting a large group of art models. Such a shoot would bring new challenges and experience, it would expand my skills.
I listened to Michael’s story; a feast of Bacchus and his companions – some familiar antique gods and goddesses, perhaps Pan with his half-man, half-goat, panting presence… And definitely with Ceres – the Rubensesque, full-bodied goddess of fertility. These ideas began to roll in my head, and gradually I visualized the whole scene. Yes, it would be a festive group drinking wine, flirting and having fun (with Pan’s presence insinuating a note of erotic energy on the set). I decided to keep it in the style of old paintings such as canvases by Titian or Caravaggio, and so a Cupid seemed a nice extra touch. Light would be used scarcely, highlighting the most important parts of the composition, but letting the less important elements drown in darkness.
Margaret, being an art historian, quickly suggested some fine details for the image. Oranges and grapes, some primitive musical instruments, flowery wreaths. Now the image was fully developed in my head.
The whole shoot preparation unfolded under a lucky star – fantastic art photographer Jon Hoadley, a real master of studio light, offered his assistance, and Michael was able to get another professional arts model – Kim Brouseau, to impersonate Ceres. After booking all the other models, we went with Michael to Disguise The Limit costume rentals to find some props. Some models also helped with props – it was truly a nice team work.
When the day came – after setting the studio stage – we were ready to shoot.While Aleta Eliasen, my friend and fine makeup artist, prepared models, Jon presented me with his idea of lighting. It was perfect, and after some small tweaks and test shots, I was totally happy with it. The light seemed natural, toned in one part with warmth of a remote bonfire. While most important part of composition was lit rather brightly, the light softly blended down, to fade into almost complete darkness of the background.
We did some solo, duo, and trio test shots – which were so nice that I kept them as separate images for this series. Next, we had to shoot the Cupid. It was fun – if not really for the model – at least for those watching. Shooting Cupid separately from the rest of the group allowed me to freely put it in the best spot later, using Photoshop.
We were ready for the main scene, and it was sheer fun! The idea suggested by Margaret, to have cross-linked interaction between various persons, connecting the front group with the back, worked really well. Everyone got their particular tasks, and we went ahead photographing.
I used my Nikon D800 on a tripod, to keep the same selected crop, when capturing various poses and models’ expressions. Tethering it all using fantastic software ControlMyNikon proved to be of real advantage. Every smallest detail was controllable, the models had a way of seeing themselves perform, and I could quickly review all the shoots.
The scene we created needed two extra persons – a woman and a man. Aleta, our makeup artist, graciously decided to help, and turned herself into an attractive partner of Pan. I quickly decided to help too, and transferred myself into some drunk, rough character in the background. I bet all the models had fun seeing me running around half-naked, in a turban, back and forth between back of the scene and the camera set in front!
All in all – it was a very demanding project and a real challenge on many levels. Photoshopping it in the style of traditional paintings was another part of this fun, and I enjoyed every minute of it. And here it is – the final image “Pan, Bacchus and Ceres” having a good time with their guests. While trying to keep it in line with the old paintings, we loosened it up here and there with subtle additions of drinking glass goblets and an impressive glass bottle.
I hope you enjoy this image. If you do – the purpose of it all has been served!
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All photographs copyright Derek Galon, please respect the copyright.
This image “Pan, Bacchus and Ceres” can be ordered as a limited edition signed print from Photo Art Gallery Vibrante, or as a smaller, open edition print from 1X.com
You can also see it in bigger size on 1X.
A separate story on art of Jon Hoadley was posted here.
An earlier story on working with Michael Ward (Knight of Might) was posted here.
My review of ControlMyNikon is here.