portraits in the style of Richard Avedon's In The American West


I'd like to do some portraits in the style of Richard Avedon's "In the American West," http://www.richardavedon.com/archive/portraits/portfolio-in-the-american-west/photos-pi_232.html . It's a great album that covers a lot of ordinary people from the West, coal miners, oil men, butchers, lawyers, teenagers, drifters, surgeons, Hutterites, writers, photographers, and mental patients. The setup is basic with subjects in their ordinary work or street clothing, facing forward and b/w photos taken from waist up in a white background. The photos are vivid, clear, and tell a lifetime's story.

We can shoot each other, or anyone you would like to bring. I'm thinking March 28 as a shoot date, giving us some time to scout some locations. Does anyone know of any natural white-background buildings we could use, or have access to a white screen backdrop? Is anyone well-versed in this style of photography who could give some basic instruction to the group?

some more about In the American West:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fnvwuIVl_6I skip to about 3:20 to start

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  • Ryan

    Let's meet at the 'Home Arts' building. It's set apart from most of the other buildings and it has a nice spot in the shade. I have a home-made backdrop so we can move anywhere there is some shade if we want to. I think someone else said they had a backdrop, so if you can, please also bring that because it may work better than mine. There is an entry gate right next to the Home Arts building, across the street from the Goodwill and Big Sky Bikes & Fitness, so it will be easy to access if you park on the street there. If you need to reach me, for example if you don't see us there, please give me a call/text at (408) 478-5281. See you soon!

    May 10, 2013

  • Pamela D.

    Sorry...I am traveling.

    May 10, 2013

  • Peggy M.

    May 9, 2013

  • Bret T.

    If you want to use a building with a white wall, I think the fairgrounds would be a very workable location.

    March 18, 2013

    • Bret T.

      I think that is a good change. I will try to round up a few "subjects."

      March 25, 2013

    • Bryan

      Count me in. I've only been to the fairgrounds once - whereabouts will we be meeting?

      May 9, 2013

  • Ryan changed the date and time from Thursday, March 28, 2013 at 6:30 PM to Saturday, May 11, 2013 at 11:00 AM

    March 25, 2013

  • Ryan changed the location to Fairgrounds­

    March 25, 2013

  • Bryan S.

    I do some hi key B&W by overexposing an off white wall with a flash set behind the model. I don't know how to get the stark look of In The West digitally. He obviously was using a large format camera. Paper negatives accentuate freckles and blemishes while giving the eyes that intense look.

    Looking at his photos, I would assume that they were taken outside on bright sunny days. The backdrop is probably a white material stretched on a frame, positioned so that the sun is behind it. This would put the subject in open, bright shade. The backdrop would be blown out to pure white, very few shadows on the subject, no catchlight in the eyes. Maybe some white reflectors on the ground or in front of the subject, depending on the light.

    March 15, 2013

    • Ryan

      Nice, thanks very much for the tips. I'll have to make do (or is it 'make due'?) with digital for now. Some day I'll have to get into large-format though. You're right, the photos were taken outside, from what bits I've seen on the youtube video. I'm a little confused about the distance from camera to subject, because in one shot I saw it looked like the camera was about 5-6 feet away and in another it looked like around 30ft. Any ideas on that?

      March 19, 2013

    • Bret T.

      Ryan,

      March 23, 2013

  • Bret T.

    The camera to subject distance is dependent on lens length. I'm not sure he is shooting from a great distance like it appears in the field. Avedon usually worked close to his subject. Downtown may be better for subjects or some subjects could be arranged prior to. March 30 will work for me. The only other consideration for that date is the weather. The fairgrounds is open access. I have a considerable amount of portrait experience.

    March 19, 2013

  • Bret T.

    Avedon shot the American West photos outside with a white bed sheet hung up on a building wall. Yes, a large format camera was used. I would be interested in joining this meetup. I can provide a backdrop. I would suggest, however, that a Saturday or Sunday be used so more time is available. The evening shooting window is not very long.

    March 16, 2013

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