Friday, July 25, 2014

portrait of a young girl

portrait of a young girl
wreathed in white, her double
hovering outside

One of the highlights of our travel photography trip is a visit to VanArts, the Vancouver Institute of Media Arts. We enter the building that houses the institute and take the elevator to the fifth floor. On the way up, I can't resist taking a photo of Samantha, wearing dark glasses and a trench coat, standing in the corner where the mirrored walls reflect her image like a pair of identical twins. This, as it turns out, will not be the first time I see her "double."

When we step out of the elevator, we're in a small reception area. On one wall there's a poster that describes what VanArts offers: acting, animation, broadcasting, game art, photography, visual effects and web development. Large posters along the hallway exhibit student projects.

On another wall, next to a replica of a Chinese clay warrior, I especially like the part in the institute's mission statement about supporting the realization of the student's dreams.

We meet our host, Ian McGuffie, Head of Digital Photography, who leads us on a tour of the facilities.

The hallways are filled with student artwork, like this animation storyboard.

In one classroom, students are working on digital photography in Photoshop.

Photos of famous actors line another wall. This guy looks like he's being pierced by light.

In the broadcasting studio, a woman who could be a model herself sits behind a mike.

I get a chuckle out of one of the instructors standing between a model skeleton, haloed in soft light, and the image of a nude man on the bright white screen of a computer monitor.

Chairs for artists and nude models arranged in a circle, with soft natural lighting from the clerestory windows.

In another hallway, the linear lines of a bank of red lockers and a silver stepladder contrast with a round blue trash can, while the one open locker draws the eye into the dark, private space within.

After our tour, Ian takes us to an auditorium for a wonderful visual lesson on the history of photography, especially emphasizing the rule of thirds, as in this famous black and white photograph by Henri Cartier-Bresson. I'm trying to imagine the skill required to capture a moving subject, not knowing until you've developed the film whether you got the man at all, let alone in the "sweet spot" that makes this photograph so appealing.

He does show us how many contact prints and how much cropping it took to come up with this famous portrait of Igor Stravinsky by Arnold Newman.

Meanwhile, I am taking a photo of Hiyan, who looks like a little elf in her brown hood, raptly listening.

And then sitting with her big yellow purse like a life bouy in a sea of blue chairs.

At the end of the day, Ian accompanies us on the elevator down, and I discover that he has a triple! When he sees me focusing on him, he says, "Ah, yes, favorite spot for photos."

The next day we meet with Mauricio Orozco, an advertising and commercial photographer, for a hands-on workshop in portrait photography. Mauricio, who was born in Mexico City, and Gabe, our instructor, who is also from Mexico, hit it off right away, We all really love the way Mauricio takes us through the details of studio lighting, reflectors, backdrops, props, fans, stills and motion shots.

This is what the fan is for, blowing hair or clothing. And oh my, what a red backdrop and just the right lighting can do to create drama.

Some of my favorite portraits are the ones that are not posed, like Hiyan delicately texting on her beloved pink cell phone.

Alena cradling her camera and looking thoughtful. And the one of Samantha sitting in the window with her double floating outside.

Of course, when I'm not shooting live models, I start seeing charming images everywhere, like the curves and complementary colors of a blue umbrella and textured silver reflector on the blue and white floor.

Or the same reflector like a gold portal to a long green and blue exterior walkway.

The same walkway, with some little plant growing through a crack in the moss green tiles and the white splotch of a bird dropping, both reflected in the glass panes.

And all the blue and white verticals and horizontals of the architecture and the reflection of brick buildings across the way.

When I look out one window, I spot two white eggs nestled in moss growing on the flat rooftop of the building next door, and I am happy to see nature adapting and thriving even in the midst of a big city.

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