Friday, June 29, 2012

Conversation on Flow

I had this email conversation with a former Magic workshop photographer.

Q: Its just a thought, and something that could compliment your workshops or help people along as well. Obviously would have to use your own images. Its just a thought - as no-one here really 'moves' like girls in LA. :S

[presents slideshow containing images like these]

A: I like it. This would be a very good asset for girls that don't move well...

But can they translate what they see into an actual pose. That's the question.

Will they overthink things and try too hard to emulate? That's a risk.

It's a good tutorial though. But the challenge in getting a girl to move is part of the exercise for me. It's like a psychological Rubik's cube!

Is this supposed to be a slideshow for photographers or models? I find it long. Dunno if you'll have a model's attention for more than 3 slides... Photographers, 10 or so? :)

Q: Thank you for your feedback. It is meant for a start for girls that don't move well. Translating to a pose - its more general - not micro posing, more this is what we are generally aiming for.

I would consider drawing the images as stick figures so they wouldn't emulate, more direct. I would only show three drawings / photos at a time, and then say lets give this a go - when it gets the exercise section.

For example, one arm up near head, one arm down, swap arms, and then both arms up. And the goal is for them to not remove the hand from the body; and translate from one pose to the other - gliding the hands in position to create a constant movement. Its like a series of exercises. Creating a sequence, so they move. Up, swap, both.

Its meant for a model.

Most the models Im getting have nooooo idea... its doing my head in, cos Im thinking of their job as well as my own. :S

But HOW do you do the psychological Rubik cube? Charles, theres this WALL and its killing me. -.-

A: I see now what you mean. And yes, the 3 pictures at a time thing works much better than inundating them with 24 slides of 3 pictures each. If models had more attention span than a goldfish, they probably wouldn't be modeling.

I think you should try this method and see how it works. I have never tried this so maybe it would work very well.

However my fear is that models will inevitably overthink the poses and wind up trying to emulate what they saw. Or worse yet, like any exercise they'll be doing the actions by rote without actually understanding the purpose behind it.

I'd like to think that there's some nugget of a model that exists in the girls that I shoot. Of course there are exceptions. I have shot girls that have had no desire to be a model. Or girls who say they want to be models but clearly don't like their jobs. In those cases it's not a matter of ability as much as it is a matter of drive.

As long as the model has any willingness to "be a model" then there is hope that I can pull something out of them that they would otherwise not be able to channel with another photographer.

But figuring out what makes them tick is like finding the right key to the lock. Different keys open different locks. Not all locks are made the same and surely not all of them are opened with the same key. Sometimes the keys look the same but have subtle differences. Sometimes it isn't even a key that opens the lock but instead a key code. And other times the lock needs to be left in place and circumvented to gain access inside.

That's what I mean by psychological Rubik's Cube. It's a game. You have little time to figure out how to make your model open up and move the way you want her to move. Sure, starting out with a better model is easier but it's a challenge that forces every photographer to concoct their own special formula to solve this age-old answer. Some girls need coddling. Some girls need to be challenged. Other girls need specifically to be told what to do.

In my own practices however I always approach models with the coddling approach. 95% of the time, the issue is simply a function of confidence or lack thereof. So coddling works. Making them feel pretty works. Telling them that they're doing things right works. And from there it's a (hopefully) slow and steady climb to exploring posing that's immediately outside the comfort zone but never a "reach". Small steps. Always. Examining myself further, I allow the girls to set the baseline at the beginning of every shoot. I let them "show me what [they've] got" and then we look at the images. I always find something good in the images because this allows me to guide them down the path that I want them to develop. And positive reinforcement always works for girls lacking confidence.

And from there it's a series of upward spiraling sequences of positive reinforcement that helps them break out of their shell.

If all else fails, alcohol sometimes works :)

The idea behind it all is to tap into the organic nature of the process and not to mechanize the process. If you show them 3 poses. They'll show you those 3 poses. But what then? By providing them confidence the hope is that they access their own "flow" and spontaneously create new poses.

With that said however, I think the pictures/presentation are a great supplement to the demonstration of flow and of how you get from one pose to the next (and everything in between). "Demonstration" being the keyword. That's why I demonstrate this live. I show the models how I would pose if I were the model. And it's supposed to be funny. Because chances are they'll think they can do better. That's the point. :)

Q: I used this approach on three models in the last three days. Starting with a bench test -'show me what you've got', then showing what I want. The models were new faces for an agency and had never been in front of camera. For two it worked well, well enough to get some images with movement and subtleties in emotion, but not the raw drive I was really chasing. And yes, when I reviewed the images they were repetitive, not - in a state of flow; however if I had them again I do think we would get there. For one model, she kept laughing and breaking the flow - being frustrated, I kept correcting her; not coddling. And it didn't work. There was a wall. Same reason my relationships never work I'm sure of it now. :L

I think it's fair to say by now models that shoot with you know what to expect. They know to some degree what they are coming in for. Doesn't make the rubric cube less challenging just different in some regards I suspect.

A: Much of the Magic workshop was about getting the right model. The model that was excited to work with you, that wanted to work with you. Pulling agency girls from a hat is sometimes a recipe for disaster... especially when they're New Faces.

Perhaps the lesson I keep coming back to for myself is that Magic IS special. It can't just be any random girl. If it were that easy, Costco and Walmart would be all over that.

And yeah, I fail. Lots of times. I don't always have the patience to coddle. Just the opposite. I'd rather not shoot than coddle and get mediocre results.

Or I just choose not to shoot altogether! I am very picky about which "battles" I fight these days.

1 comment:

  1. I share the same sentiments..but I try to be kind...sometimes if I don't feel the model, I just try my best...and 80 percent of the time..the photo is not what you wanted it to :)