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Some thoughts on an accident of art

Sometimes, accidents happen. Often, though we don’t always realise it, they are beautiful accidents. And when beautiful accidents occur we should seize them with both hands.

Take this image, for example (click for a bigger version):

This image was made right at the end of a shoot. One of the models had already headed back to the changing room to get changed and remove her makeup. Katie and I were left to get one more shot of this last look, a 20’s flapper-like dress, with assorted accessories.

Katie happened to strike this pose, and whilst my light wasn’t set up for it I immediately knew how I wanted to light it. We shot the look that I was already set up for – which was fine, but didn’t hold my attention for long – and then this one. Simple lighting: a gridded light off to camera right; the idea being to follow the angle between Katie’s face and the wall light.

There are plenty of problems with the image – the lower section is darker than I’d like, for example – but I still love it. It occurs to me that the more I do this job, the more I’m starting to think in terms of a phrase used by David Hobby: Lighting in layers.

I’m starting to think that I want to shoot an entire series where I treat the lighting rather as one would approach painting with oils: adding light to the canvas however it needs to be added than getting wrapped up in thinking about all the technical details. This image embodies a look that I’ve been trying to achieve for some time, and to have come across it almost entirely by accident is both quite delicious and quite galling at the same time.