Tuesday, December 02, 2008

On Photography

I ran into George Bouret this morning and he asked me if I'd done anything with the photographs he and Karin DiChiara took (see Game Supper, a few posts back). Oh m'god - have I been that self-centered (yes). The photographs were crucial and here is the story of what I did with them.

George gave me the 473 (count 'em - 473) images on a disk (two disks actually but that's a detail...). I decided that the thing to do was to go through them on the computer, choose the ones I wanted to use, and print them out. This got the total down to 250 or so - too many to print. Back I went, this time limiting myself to the bare minimum, and got it down to 50. These I printed out and pinned up on the big wall in my studio. The process took two full days but I had a wonderful, multi-faceted, photographic portrait of the Game Supper.

I had asked George and Karin to get there early so as to document the food preparation and as a result there were many shots of firemen slicing meat and ladies cutting pie as well as images of all kinds of people going through the line and of course a huge variety of shots of people eating, talking, toasting. I was overwhelmed and didn't know where to begin. For a while I just stared; gradually I began to sort the photos by subject: pie-slicers together, serving line shots together, etc. My own sketches were vital as they were notes of the kinds of rhythms and groupings that I wanted. On a few occasions I had a scribble of a figure that the camera missed; sometimes I had both photographs and drawings of the same figure, or group of figures.

The hardest part was selection - I wanted to do it all. For the umpteenth time I cursed the short amount of time available - this project is being formulated at what is, for me, warp speed.

Finally I did what always works best for me - I followed my gut. There was one fireman in particular that I had found compelling. He worked the food line all night ladling gravy and serving up squash. Hugely tall, he towered over the others on the line, yet spooned gravy as if he were laying a baby to rest - a gentle giant. I had done a sketch of his head from life; there were many photos of him as well. I wanted to draw this man and that is what I did. Or rather, started to do, because as soon as I began I found I needed a ladlee - someone for whom he was ladling gravy and I combed my photos for a likely candidate - showering internal blessings on George and Karin for providing me with this wealth of material. I found an image of a young girl with a big winter jacket falling off her shoulders and bunching around her arms. Between the jacket and her long wavy hair she looked like an updated sitter for a Titian portrait. Bingo. I sat happily for a few hours making a sketch of the two of them and when it was finished I knew they would be the emotional center of the painting.

The rest of the composition formed (almost) effortlessly around them as I drew from my notes and the photos to find likely figures and ideas. I went back to the photo disks looking now with purpose and specificity. I found 50 more photos, including four of my young girl, printed those out and pinned them up. taking down others that were not needed; I was on my way.
Thanks George, thanks Karin.

1 comment:

Eulalia (Lali) Benejam Cobb said...

I remember that fireman! Glad to know you're on your way.