I’ve always felt that the “beauty” of the subject is a heavily overrated part of the image.
Our world is full of beauty (sometimes entirely subjective and sometimes universal to us as a species) and we’re so privileged and lucky to be be able to observe it – to the point that it’s one of the very reasons we exist – to me that’s true and I’d sign under it every day. In fact, I do believe in Carl Sagan’s words entirely – “we’re the way of the Cosmos to know itself”.
Beauty is a part of the world, a part so powerful and magnetic that it has become the paramount subject of many an artist’s work. But to me, it has always been more about the “wonder”. And wonder tends to be a vastly wider, much less defined category. Beauty may or may not be a part of it. I keep trying not to define my work strictly as “beautiful”. At times creating it would be necessary without question. But more often than not, focusing on just beauty itself seemes like an avoidance, a deception to me.
Sarah makes beautiful dresses for beautiful occasions and that seems like almost an universal truth. But whenever she calls me, I can always be sure there is something beyond that, something that could unite a beautiful vision and a concept in which beauty is just an ingredient of the whole. So when she called me to work on her new lookbook, I said “yes” without even thinking it through.
model: Karina Ilieva / Ivet Fashion
make-up: Radmila Badova
hair: Suzan Al Hirsch
dress: Sarah Hirsch
The shoot was about mirrors. And it was to be made on relatively simple, minimalist terms.
I broke one of the mirrors on the way up to the studio, which was obviously not exactly a great beginning. Yet somehow I knew it was going to be fine.
When I entered the space, a sudden thought hit me – despite all of the simplicity I’d planned, there was this floral paper lampshade, which begged to be played with. But what was more – it had a rather distinct, sharp light coming out of its bulb, which played in such an interesting way with the mirrors’ edges, when they were placed on the floor – it created a thin, close to invisible reflection on the surface of the wall in an unusual, fragile, yet (once noticed) very engaging manner. It was an unexpected, but quite specific game of light, which occurred naturally and was quite easy to miss. But once I saw it, I thought – ok, Sarah’s dresses are both floral and geometric in nature. They are made of sharp, striking lines, but with a sense of finesse at the same time. I did have the ingredients to make something quite more different than the initial concept, more interesting visually, but what’s even better – still being entirely in the context of her work.
I didn’t even hesitate.
Thankfully, I’d brought some of my favourite lights – extremely harsh, direct cinematic sources. I never really planned on using them for this shoot beforehand, but the occasion really called for nothing else (with a very, very slight fill light from a small 5500K strobe).
What I managed to achieve through this setup was further enhancing what the environment had already presented me to work with, and the most beautiful part was that they were used not to create something entirely new and fictional (although the final images do have this feel, I guess), but to incorporate what was already there to begin with with and further empower it with artificial lighting, which worked, in my opinion, flawlessly for the shoot. It’s not really a typical lookbook, but “typical” would be an insult for these clothes nonetheless.
Sometimes the answers for us as light workers and light manipulators stand right there, just where we are. And sometimes simply “seeing” is more than enough. And no matter how much years one has spent working in this field, no matter what his general attitude towards photography is – I find this thought highly comforting and liberating at the same time.