Clearstory Studios art photography sample photographs


the woman touching his garments
Janet de Coux

Technical Notes:   Sometimes a black and white image will make a more profound statement than one in color. This is often true of figurative sculpture. In photgraphing this piece by the internationally-known liturgical sculptor, Janet de Coux, the extraordinary boldness of the form and the perfection and detail of the executed technique called for a simple yet stunning portrayal.

Figurative sculptural pieces are often best photographed in natural light, but that is a source of illumination that is often difficult to control due to the vagaries of the weather and the seasons of the year, not to mention the time of day. The best alternative is to use a large diffuse light source placed overhead, slightly to one side and in front of the figure, just as one would do in portrait photohraphy. This is the way that our eye would "expect" to see a natural figure standing outside in the morning or afternoon light of the sky.

Because of the beautiful textures of the wood and the detailed hand-chiseled tool-marks, as well as the bas-relief areas of the figures, a moderate light was also cast at a steep angle across the front of the sculpture to enhance these features by creating highlights and shadows. Too much fill lighting would have eliminated these fine textures and made the image appear "flat". Because of the strong shadows needed to dramatize both the overall form as well as the surface details of this piece, a carefully placed back-light was used to slightly illumine the dark left edge of the sculpture, separating it from the black background.

Certain woods, and walnut in particular, are often represented disappointingly in photographs. This is beacuse there are unknown properties in some very few materials that cannot be captured accurately by even the best of modern color films and do not appear with the great range of tonality that our eyes see. Brass is another similar material that can cause such problems, and in general these materials must be exposed to a much higher degree than our light meters suggest. Also, in photographing all woods, it is advisable for the artist to bring his work to the photographer before a finish has been applied, or with only a very light matte finish. Almost all wood finishes except a few (and these must be most expertly applied), either by reflectivity or even slight opacity, diminish the ability of the film to capture the clarity, grain and true hue of natural wood. The above sculpture was finished only with one very light coat of tung oil mixed with turpentine and beeswax that was applied about twenty years before this photograph was taken.

This black and white print was one of over 200 prints made by Clearstory Studios for a retrospective of Ms. de Coux's sculptural work that were incorporated into a custom folio. Each print was hand-developed on archival photographic paper and dry-mounted to Strathmore 100% rag watercolor paper. The pages were leather bound into two volumes with a descriptive fly-leaf for each photograph printed on translucent Gilclear paper stock. The actual work was photographed in the artist's studio where it was originally sculpted.

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