A lifelong resident of the Lisbon area of Portugal, Pedro Portela has never been lacking gorgeous photographic opportunities. The small nation of Portugal is famous for breathtaking beaches, rolling farmland, and even ancient Roman temples. It’s against these backdrops Portela shoots both film and digital portraits. He also has been turned around on his initial impressions of wedding photographers, and now counts himself among professionals using medium format film to capture weddings.
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As a native of New York City, Brian Matiash was surrounded by buildings. While growing up, the first profession he ever dreamed of pursuing was to be an architect. It should then come as no surprise Matiash’s photography of choice is urban architectural high dynamic range photography.
In high school, I was obsessed with Andy Summers, and how he changed the sonic landscape of popular music forever as a member of the Police. As a budding guitarist, I worked my way through every song in their catalog, and sought out every non-Police recording I could find of man who created a new vocabulary for six strings. As I pored over all available information regarding Mr. Summers, I came across Lynn Goldsmith’s first book on the Police. No stranger to photographing rock and roll artists, Goldsmith intimately chronicled the band from 1976 to 1983, often at times when tour support was minimal and tensions were at their maximum.
Although I almost drooled over Andy Summer’s now-iconic battered Telecaster, it was clear from the first page Goldsmith’s photos were more than something your eyes would skim over in the pages of a music magazine. Years have passed. Fender has issued a limited reproduction of Summer’s famous guitar, and Goldsmith released an updated version of her book on the Police. The photos still hold up. Even as a teenager I understood there was a depth to them. They were not just photographs of another band cavorting or looking hero-like. It was something more artistic, particularly in the composition of those black and white images, and the moodiness of the color ones, compelling me to look beyond what an average teenage fan sees in musicians. Like the guitar music which brought me to Goldsmith’s work, I was witnessing art I hadn’t expected.
None of this should’ve been suprising to me then, or to Goldsmith’s new audience now. By the time that first Police book was released in 1983, she had been working with musicians for a considerable period. In 1971 the Michigan native was employed at Elektra Records, and became the youngest member inducted into the Director’s Guild of America. The following year, she directed In Concert for ABC Television. Soon she “was tired of doing shows the way they wanted me to do them,” she recalls. “I suggested we do a documentary section to the show.” She partnered with Flint, Michigan’s Grand Funk Railroad for a documentary on In Concert, and eventually became their co-manager.
Andy Cavaliere had been their road manager, and knew the touring business, and Goldsmith knew creative marketing. It proved a perfect pairing, and Grand Funk Railroad soon had their first number one hit. With her marketing savvy, Goldsmith began constructing photo shoots for the band. Her creativity proved valuable, and soon she was providing magazines around the world with her photos. “I decided what I really loved doing was making pictures, because I didn’t have to have all the elements one needs when you’re a director, and I could just go out and do things on my own,” she says. Soon she realized she didn’t need Grand Funk, either. Photography had trumped the job she created for herself.
Goldsmith began photographing whatever she could, and sold her work to a broader range of magazines. Business snowballed, and she started a photo agency. Specializing in photos of entertainers, LGI represented over 300 photographers before being sold to Corbis in 1997. “None of all of this was conscious,” she explains. “It was just my energy and being passionate and enthusiastic about everything that I did, which also included seeing the work in print. So, I think we all have to follow our bliss. Sometimes it’s easier when you’re younger, because you just don’t think of things as a risk.” Goldsmith sold LGI because she missed what she loved most: taking photos.
The list of musicians and celebrities Goldsmith has chronicled is legendary, and there are perhaps a only a handful of other professional photographers who can boast such a long and substantial career with subjects in the limelight. She’s shot over a hundred album covers we grew up with, and has been in almost every major magazine you can think of, from covers to inside features. From the Beatles to the Beastie Boys, Goldsmith has had them in front of her lenses.
If forced to apply just one word to Lynn Goldsmith it would be “identity.” Never afraid of reinventing herself, Goldsmith has even been a recording artist for Island Records under her Will Powers persona. Released in 1983, Dancing for Mental Health was produced by Todd Rundgren and featured the single “Kissing With Confidence,” which peaked at Number 17 in the UK Singles Chart and featured Carly Simon on lead vocal. Also contributing to the album was Nile Rogers, Steve Winwood, and Sting, among others.
Her most recent and ongoing experiment with identity is a game-changer for Goldsmith, and may very well eclipse the large body of rock and roll photography she is known for. Entitled The Looking Glass, a series of 50 self-portrait images influenced by shopping, fashion and identity, has been under construction for ten years. By taking advantage of digital technology, Goldsmith has done something wholly original in the history of photography.
The United States is a country founded on trade. The Dutch came here to make guilders from beaver pelt commerce. With a long and documented history of fashion trends imported first from Europe, and later, other parts of the world, not to mention original American fashions, we are a nation concerned with how we look. None of this national history has been lost on Goldsmith. She addresses it directly with The Looking Glass. What American woman in the last hundred years has not been influenced by the latest fashions being hawked from behind the plate glass windows of a boutique or department store?
This intrinsic American drive of commerce and fashion and identity perception is with us today. In the 50 photos which comprise The Looking Glass book, Goldsmith and crew have created distinct and elaborate sets, all of which are based on the starting point of a display window with mannequins. Some, like “Strung Out,” can easily be imagined installed in the window of Saks Fifth Avenue. Others, like “Ringmaster,” or “Tea Cup Dream,” are as elaborate as a dreamscape sequence from any Hollywood blockbuster. Photographing the scenes in whole and in part, she uses mannequins as placeholders for herself, later inserting her face on them, transforming her identity time after time, often appearing up to five times in the same image.
“There’s no such thing as fixed identity,” explains Goldsmith. “That’s why I keep changing form. That’s why even in my career as a photographer, people like to identify me as a rock and roll photographer, but I have a much wider body of work. If anything, I’d say I’m more a portrait photographer than I am a landscape photographer.”
It’s clear the early decades she spent amassing a body of work featuring musicians and celebrities has directly paid off with the triumph of this series. “The Looking Glass is really a reflection of all of that,” Goldsmith tells me. “In the early days when women started making records, I wanted to make them look their best. When it was with the guys, like with Grand Funk, I redressed people and sometimes I would have other people cut their hair or do things, but when it came to women, no one was paying for hair or makeup or styling, so I had to learn how to do hair and makeup. That’s why in The Looking Glass series, part of what I do is the hair and makeup on myself before I enter the bodies of these mannequins, as well as play other characters. Some of those characters in The Looking Glass are characters who have appeared before in my Will Powers videos and performances. So, it’s all connected because the work I’ve always done has been about either making an individual physically look like what they thought they always wanted to look like, or I made them look more like what I thought their music or whatever they were about, or what their fans wanted to see them look like. Every photographer can make someone look like they’re a completely different person just by the way they approach that photo shoot. The Looking Glass series starts out really as self‑portraits and ends up being not about me but really a question as to what it is to be human.”
When I press Goldsmith for more details about the origin of this series I discover nothing less than her own identity was at stake. “It came about as I think most things do—out of pain and suffering. I really felt I needed to do something outside of celebrity portraiture and I didn’t have a clear idea anymore of who I was. I felt very lost and wondered where I was going, wondered ‘what am I going to do?’”
Taking solace from something of her childhood, Goldsmith went to Macy’s in New York City, with its famous wooden escalator. Triggering a Proustian flashback, she recalled the Detroit department store J.L. Hudson’s wooden escalator she rode as a child, which she always liked. While in Macy’s, she watched customers picking up clothing. “I would think, ‘No, no. Don’t get that! That’s not for you!,’” she recalls. “I figured out that if I know what people shouldn’t be wearing, or think I know, then I must have some sense of who I am.”
This realization got her exploring what shopping means. “Shopping is such an important pastime, particularly in our culture, because it makes people feel in some way that they know who they are,” Goldsmith says. “I started looking at the store windows to see what really brought people into the stores. In doing that, I realized when people see the mannequins in the windows—many of whom don’t have heads—they’re set to imagine what could be there. That body could be their body. There’s something that’s driving them.”
Soon she was photographing store windows late at night for reference. “I would sit down with an image and think about some kind of fictional narrative that would explore the things that influenced me as a little kid, just like the escalator,” she says. Recalling myths and fairy tales of childhood, she explored how they influence our identity. She also thought about what would happen if they were reinterpreted. What would a black or Latina Red Riding Hood be like, for instance?
When I ask Goldsmith about the color and saturation of The Looking Glass, she’s quick to reflect on the nature of digital imagery. “The reason it’s kind of hyper‑color is because I do want it to appear real, but obviously it’s not real. That will enhance the question of what’s imagined and what’s true. That’s really in part what the digital world is about, and in the digital world—and that’s why I chose all my tools to be digital—nothing really exists until you manifest a print. So, was there ever really a photograph? Photographs, when we look at them, we think they are a single image. And they are, but are they? Some of my photographs are made up of over 50 images, and because the Photoshop work is what it is, hopefully when one looks at it, they only see one image. The mind will then ask me, ‘Well, what was there and what wasn’t there?’ And I’m not going to tell you,” she concludes with a smile.
Much time was spent on mentally exploring the narrative of each photo in this series. “There are things I learned about myself from every photograph, and about other people and about being human,” says Goldsmith. The other large time-expenditure was her Photoshop processing.
The compositing of each image was a gradual process, which grew organically as the narrative unfolded itself to Goldsmith. “It’s really different with each image,” she says. “For example, ‘Teacup Dreams’ took me a year, but that’s because I would stand back and look at it—not unlike what a painter does—and I kept saying, ‘Something’s bothering me. Something’s bothering me.’ Then I would go, ‘Oh! I forgot to light the candles!’”
Fashion remained central to the project, and never strayed from Goldsmith’s mind. “As I went through time, in terms of the clothing, I kind of went through a 1930s, ’40s period. Then we get into the 1950s, ’60s. Clothing starts getting cleaner and simpler as we move forward into modern times.”
Clothing wasn’t the only thing which got cleaner and simpler during the ten years Goldsmith worked on The Looking Glass. Shooting Mamiya cameras during the length of the project, she started with a Mamiya 645 and transitioned to the DM40 before eventually using the new Mamiya DM33. “I knew I was going to be making my images hopefully 60 x 90 or even bigger, minimum 60 x 40. You have to have a really large file to be able to do all the things I wanted to do with it. Mamiya was the way to go.”
The lighting she used during the project was Profoto. “That’s the best gear in the whole world. I don’t think there’s any lighting that’s better than Profoto. But, to me that’s obvious. Don’t you know that?” I’m being teased by Lynn Goldsmith. I ask her how she triggers her lights. “I couldn’t live without PocketWizards. Are you kidding? That is true. Do you know anyone who doesn’t use PocketWizards?” Lynn Goldsmith is still teasing me. I love this job.
I ask about tripods. Goldsmith quickly replies she uses an Induro. I suggest it’s probably one of the carbon fiber models. “Oh, yes—it is. It’s got to be, because I need lightweight,” she says. “It’s the CT114. I love it.”
With the creative part of The Looking Glass finished, Goldsmith now turns her attention to the release of the photos in book form, and an accompanying gallery tour of the images. Details on both aspects of this stunning series of images are available on The Looking Glass site.
It’s been almost thirty years since I sat for hours alone in my parents’ home with a guitar and Lynn Goldsmith’s well-composed images in my lap. I still drool over Andy Summers’ iconic, battered Telecaster, and I still sit alone with a guitar, but soon I’ll have a new series of images from Lynn Goldsmith’s lenses to transport me to another place. It will involve not an iconic rock band, but will explore identity, sense of self, and one of the reasons the United States exists. This time the experience will be richer, more vivid, and timeless.
Written by Ron Egatz
Mamiya, Phase One and Profoto announce First Vertical Grip With Built-in Flash Technology
The Mamiya/Phase One V-Grip Air for 645DF Cameras was co-developed with Profoto.
ELMSFORD, NY, COPENHAGEN, TOKYO, and STOCKHOLM, August 23, 2010 -- Mamiya and Phase One, leaders in open platform medium format digital camera systems and solutions, and Profoto, the light shaping company, today announced the Mamiya/Phase One V-Grip Air. This is the first product resulting from these companies’ collaboration.
The Mamiya/Phase One V-Grip Air is not only the first vertical grip with a built-in wireless flash trigger; it is also the first and only wireless flash sync solution for a medium format camera system that is capable of delivering sync speeds as fast as 1/1600s. The new V-Grip also offers owners of Phase One and Mamiya 645DF cameras more shooting styles, and delivers longer camera battery life through power integration and easy firmware upgrades.
“Profoto’s innovative flash system technology is legendary in our time,” said Henrik Hеkonsson, President and CEO, Phase One. “Profoto’s commitment to system diversity complements Phase One’s open platform approach to ensure photographers have options to choose the best systems to support their unique requirements.”
“Profoto is recognized globally as producing the most innovative flash equipment in the industry” says president of Mamiya Digital Imaging, Toshio Midorikawa. “By combining resources with Profoto, Mamiya and Team Phase One, we are able to offer photographers the most practical tools for their profession.”
Built-in flash technology from Profoto lets photographers trigger a flash simply and wirelessly from the V-grip Air. The wireless flash triggering system is an out-of-the-box solution that works with all current and most modern Profoto flash systems. It is also possible to leverage the wireless flash triggering with other flash brands by using an optional receiver unit from Profoto.
“We share Phase One’s and Mamiya’s passion for pushing the limits for our customers,” said Anders Hedebark, CEO, Profoto. “It is great to be working with companies that lead the medium format market in applied innovation for photographers. Our cooperation in designing the V-grip Air marks the beginning of new and better workflow tools we plan to be offering to professional photographers in the future.”
The V-Grip Air unit features all the same camera controls and functionality as on the 645DF camera. An integrated L-bracket is available for portrait-mode mounting on a stand. The unit runs on the same type of battery used in Phase One and Leaf digital backs with a backup option to use standard AA type batteries.
The Mamiya One V-Grip Air for 645DF camera systems is priced at $1290. A L-bracket/handstrap standalone package is $299. Both are scheduled to begin shipments in latter September.
The Profoto transceiver is $199 and is available from Profoto. More information is available at http://www.profoto-usa.com.
At under eight square miles, you’d think not many big things happen on the quiet barrier island of Grand Isle, Louisiana. Stephen Voss discovered this wasn’t true when shooting on assignment for a client in the area recently.
A professional photographer and resident of Washington, D.C., Voss was enjoying some downtime when not attending to his client’s needs. He wandered the island, eventually discovering privately contracted security guards were preventing access to public beaches. “They were presumably working for British Petroleum,” he says. “They weren’t public employees, like police officers, and they didn’t identify themselves. They were working for BP, saying, ‘These beaches are closed,’ or ‘You can’t go past this spot on the beach, you can’t talk to the clean-up workers.’ This was in Grand Isle, Louisiana,” he reaffirms.
Being a professional news photographer in Washington, D.C. has given Voss the training to not be turned away easily when looking to get a story in his viewfinder. As any seasoned freelancer can tell you, the first rule of meeting resistance is to simply move around it. “I got frustrated with it, so I found a guy who rents kayaks and spent about half of one day kayaking up and down, not on the ocean side, on the Gulf side of Grand Isle, just kind of taking a look around that way. For the most part, I had my digital camera and my Mamiya in a dry bag, but I’d taken it out for a little bit, and the wind had sort of changed at some point, and the waves started coming the other way. The current picked up a little and splashed over the kayak.”
His digital camera escaped dry and unscathed, but his Mamiya 6 was sitting in about one-quarter of an inch of oil-tainted Gulf water. Voss headed in to the kayak rental and removed the exposed film from his Mamiya. He used distilled water to carefully rinse out the bottom of the camera.* “I’ve been looking at it every couple of days since I’ve been back, and amazingly, I don’t see any signs of rust. Thankfully, I think I’m in the clear, which honestly sort of blows my mind, because I assumed the camera would be fried the second the water hit it.”
Although his Mamiya seems to be working fine, his film was damaged. In the photo at the top of this story you can see both heavy and light streaks of oil which entered the camera and stained the film emulsion. Several other images also were processed to reveal similar damage from this roll.
Voss currently has not one, but two wonderful series of photos on his blog having to do with the April 20, 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill. The BP-owned rig, which was destroyed in an explosion, created a Gulf of Mexico sea-floor oil gusher releasing close to five million barrels of oil and the deaths of eleven platform workers before the wellhead was capped on July 15. It is the largest marine oil spill in the history of the petroleum industry. Voss’s eerie black and white images show deserted beaches at the height of tourist season, oil booms attempting to keep crude from reaching the dunes, jetty rocks covered in oil, and a lawn of crosses, each one bearing the name of a marine species or seafood dish which will no longer be harvested from the Gulf of Mexico.
His color images documenting the spill include a series of detritus contaminated by oil. They include a hermit crab, a polystyrene foam boom, a clod of sand, and a plastic water bottle. Shot simply on a white background, these images are a stark testament to human industrial error. The irony Voss hints at by choosing the boom and the bottle—both petroleum products—is more apparent when documented in this setting.
Landscapes and still lifes are not the only thing Voss shoots. As a photographer in the capital, he often photographs government officials and CEOs. If you’re an aspiring photographer hoping to become a pro who shoots celebrities and world leaders, Voss has showcased a session he had with former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, which lasted all of a sobering 90 seconds. His latest personal project is a fascinating and haunting study of American car dealerships, which, once again, come at a poignant time.
Shooting both digital and film cameras, Voss still uses his Mamiya professionally. “I am really a huge fan of the Mamiya 6. I absolutely love the camera,” he says. While his favorite camera is the Mamiya 6, he also owns and uses a Mamiya 6MF. “They’ve been really good rugged cameras. I have the 75mm f/3.5 lens and a 50mm f/4 lens. For a long time I just had the 75 and more recently got the 50. They’ve just been incredible for me. I think these are the sharpest ones I own, and I love the square format. I love the range finder. There’s just something really special about being able to work so quickly and unobtrusively and still get like a really big image that’s so much bigger than 35mm. Yeah, I’ve been really happy. They’ve been really great cameras for me. I actually prefer the 6 because it has less markings in the window.”
A computer science major in college, Voss took one Intro to Darkroom class in his junior year. Other than that, he’s largely self-taught. Currently eyeing the DM33 for his magazine work, Voss continues to shoot his mix of portraits, editorial, landscapes, and stories. Watch for his continued coverage of major events in Washington, and anywhere assignments take him. Security guards should be careful about denying him access to his subject matter. You never know what this talented shooter will find if turned away.
*It should be noted Mamiya does not condone, approve, or encourage this type of user servicing.
Written by Ron Egatz