Sunday 14 April 2013

How to break through? Lighting (and other challenges) with Guinness World Records

How to make an impression in the wider world with your photography?

You might be a great shooter, but how do you get your message across to other people.

It is pretty straightforward.

Chose a subject that you are interested in, research it, and shoot it better than it has been shot before.

Ideally choose something that others will take interest in.

I was worn out, just returned from the Kosovo conflict, realising that I no longer wanted to be at the cutting edge of news.

So I came up with the idea of photographing the UK's 20 most unusual Guinness World record holders.

A manageable number that would be achievable on a budget, or so I thought.

I will be expanding this subject in future posts but I wanted to start with a post about one of the very notable records in the series.

Tony Mattia of Brighton has (or at least had) the biggest collection of Barbie dolls.

Tony is a lovely guy and as with all the record holders it was a matter of portraying them in a respectful manner, no matter how seemingly eccentric their record is to a viewer.

So how to make a Barbie collection look cool?

I came up with this idea of photographing a collection from above.

On this occasion I shot from the ceiling of a large car studio straight down.

Initially I thought it would be a matter of roughly placing the dolls around Tony.

How wrong I was.

It looked a horrible, horrible mess.

So then we worked on the radiating circles which worked very well indeed.

How to portray Tony in a fun way?

A colourful suit.

Easy, right?


I initially could not get anyone to loan me a suit, I tried many big companies, all of whom said no.

So I called brand x, who's shirts I often wear.

The call went something like, I wear your shirts, I'm doing a really cool photo-shoot with the biggest Barbie doll collector in the world, will you loan me a brightly coloured suit.

It is remarkable how many people agree to help for little or no money when you are doing something cool.

They said 'yes' on condition that I did NOT reveal their name, which at first sounds a little strange.

They wanted to avoid every photographer beating a path to their door.

So we had our components, but how to light it evenly?

with lights pointing in from the edge of the frame there would have been shadows and hot spots on the floor and on the collection.

The other challenge was to keep the lights themselves out of the shot.

What to do?

I used 4 tungsten continuous lights just out of shot angled up at 45 degrees pointing toward the hole in the ceiling where my lens was poking through, the reflected light bouncing back off the ceiling of the cove onto Tony and his impressive collection.

It was back in the day and I was shooting on colour transparency film on a Mamiya RZ 6x7 ProII with a 110mm lens.

I cannot recall the exposure but F8 I think, a slow, slow shutter speed.

As I said I have lots of fun stories to share regarding the World Record breakers and the considerable impact it had on my career.

Stay tuned for more on this transformative project.


Libby said...

I remember seeing this in your Eccentrics series. It's nice to hear the story behind it. That's a funny story about the suit usually they want the credit line.

I really have to give myself a creative kick in the behind here. A little too much "as if by rote" work here lately and I feel stale.

You wrote "film on a Mamiya RZ 6x7 ProII with a 110mm film" Did you mean lens here? I know they made a very nice 110mm for the RZ.

BTW already signed for your Manfrotto presentation at the end of the month.

You have a wonderful day!

Unknown said...

Hi Libby,

Indeed you are right re the 110mm.

A typo crept in.

I am guilty too of ploughing the same furrow, dividends are paid when I do get of my backside.