Lukas from Guzuu agreed to do a Web Portraits Zurich shoot at my studio just before Easter. Lukas is interesting on many levels and was one of the reasons I started the Web Portraits Zurich project. He’s got a web startup (Guzuu.com), he has a cool style, and he’s a DJ on the side. Lukas was the inspiration for the web portrait project. I met him at the Amazee booster party in 2009 and it was after a Web Monday meeting that I decided to start the web portrait project on Amazee. The reason was clear, people in the startup community have a cool combination of brains and style, making for excellent portrait subjects.
After Lukas agreed to do a web portrait we met for a brain storming session at Cafe Spheres in Zurich and from there we developed some visual direction for the shoot. I used Cacoo to work up a mindmap of the brainstorming meeting and used that in the pre-production lighting setup. Like Mathias, Lukas has a strong identity to music and the associated visual imagery. This is sort of a dream for the concept portrait photographer, because the person already has an opinion of what they like visually. This makes the whole portrait process way cooler, because it’s then a coming together of the minds and visual direction. Lukas knows the imagery he likes, it’s my job to work with him to create it virtual reality (digital imaging, photography, whatever you like to call it).
Lukas dropped by with a bag full of cool clothes and after popping open a beer we talked for a bit and then started shooting. The interesting thing about the web portrait project is that I’m shooting real people in their own skin. When you shoot with models you’re often times shooting someone acting out a scene. They retain certain traits of their personality, but the image and concept comes from the photographer, the shoot is produced, the final image a result of pure direction. When I shot Demari Vi Syth her “psychotic sister of the girl next door” vibe is evident, but it doesn’t necessarily reflect who she is in real life. But that wasn’t the point of that shoot. A good model knows how they look, how to best portray their body, and it’s the job of the photographer to use that and make it look authentic with respect to the image concept. In general, real people don’t know how to pose, and as a photographer I’m not so motivated to tell them exactly what to do. I know this is what photographers are supposed to do, but if you direct 20 different people the exact same way you end up with 20 nearly identical portraits.
The faces change, but the form of the body basically stays the same if you direct everyone the same way. How boring is that? Oh sweet, another picture of a band in front of a brick wall. Think outside the cookie cutter softbox. The goal of Web Portraits Zurich is to give people a platform to be themselves in an artificial environment, to create portraits which present their personalities as they see themselves. Naturally I add a lot of interpretation through shooting, lighting, and post-processing, but only so long as I can maintain that authenticity of the person in the portrait. I’m not saying I’m succeeding in this respect, I’m just saying I’m doing what feels right. Be true to the integrity of the image, and all the details will fall into place.
By the end of the shoot we’d gone through a variety of looks and killed a few beers. We had the idea of following a certain combination of color and jackets. Lukas had a shirt from Guzuu in Yellow with a tape on the front (one of the most popular items) and I let him borrow my version in red. Near the end Lukas brought out the DJ headphones an I switched to a wide-angle setup, shooting him like he was leading the crowd of a fanatic music rave calling out to the Gods of nights. Of course, the images aren’t finished, I’ll now move into the abstract stage and start putting together some post processing concepts for the images.