The phone rings. “Hey bro, would you teach a lighting class this Friday?” That’s Alberto, a happy man who always tricks me (actually I’m happy he does ) to teach in his school: Workshop Experience. He told me that the class would be part of the Profoto Lighting Specialist course, an advanced lighting course focused on using Profoto lights. Sounds good. I’ve been really busy these past months working on advertising, and these classes are a very good excuse to keep on developing my personal projects. I say yes and I threatened him on building a big scenery. He laughs.
I love when I have to think a photo from scratch. At this point everything is possible, you can create any world you can imagine, convey the emotions you feel (or die trying) and tell the story you want to tell. A picture without a story behind makes no sense to me. A model just posing with nice clothes on her bores me to death… I’ve seen it a thousand times before. I want to create storytelling images, and try to make people think about them and the ideas and concepts behind. Of course, sometimes I succeed and sometimes I don’t. The best indicator to see if you’re on track is just to ask yourself : “This picture I just made, would I like to see it in an exhibition?” that’s what determines if it’s a good picture, or if it’s not.
Well, I started to think about the picture and some ideas came to my head. The first time I was in Amsterdam during inter-rail we had no accommodation reserved, and as every hostel was full we tried to get accommodation in the weirdest places. One of those was a very crappy laundry run by a rather humble Chinese family. On the top floor they had a flat with rooms for rent and downstairs and in the basement they had the laundry. At the end they had no free beds, so we slept somewhere else, but somehow that image got stuck in my head. I thought a laundry like that could be an interesting scenery, and an immigrant Chinese family good characters. Following the style of the pictures I’ve been working on lately, I wanted to talk about appearances, beauty and what lies beneath it.
When I had a well-defined idea and I could clearly see the picture in my head, we started with the construction of the scenery. It’s a process I love, very manual and physical… really unique in these online and computerized times. A key element of the scenery was light because we had some light sources visible there. I wanted to mix tungsten bulbs (warm light) with a much cooler light from a fluorescent. The problem was to combine these weak lights with the Profoto flashes, that even at their minimum intensity they overpower the continuous lights by far. Well, the solution was simple, although quite unusual: I did not fire the flashes and I just used the modeling light, maintaining the quality of light but with much less intensity than the flash. This is not the normal use of the flashes, but it worked… Light is just light, you can use it as you like.
I built the lighting set up with the students, thinking carefully each step and explaining the process. When lighting an scenery, you usually need several light sources to create a realistic atmosphere, so there are many different possibilities open. Working with students is a very satisfactory experience because they always have interesting suggestions and questions. I have to say this particular group of students was pretty advanced and they immediately understood what I wanted to create and they were involved in the shooting. I really enjoyed it! The modeling light of the Profoto flashes worked very well and we were able to create the atmosphere I had in my head. Martin Benza recorded a very cool behind the scenes video, here it is:
Chacha Huang and Sau Wan Lui were great models. From the very first take we had very good poses and expressions, and the shooting flowed well. Leyre Valiente lent us one of her marvellous dresses, it’s absolutely spectacular. Leyre thank you very much! The whole team did a wonderful job and I am grateful to them all. THANK YOU ALL
Photo: Gonzaga Manso
Production: Adriana Rivera y Workshop Experience
Young woman: Chacha Huang
Old woman: Sau Wan Lui
Dress courtesy of Leyre Valiente
Styling : Tamara Regueiro
Makeup and hair: Carminia Albornoz
Makeup and hair assistant: Raffaela Barbieri
Coordinators: Maythe Prieto y Alberto Hidalgo
Camera assistant: Darío Aranyo
Digital assistant: Joaquín Infiesta
Art director: Gonzaga Manso
Prop masters: Almudena Bretón, Darío Aranyo, Adriana Rivera
Making of: Martín Benza, Jacober Creative