Updated: Aug 25, 2020
This morning I was thinking about a photo I took a couple of years ago at home, and realised it would make a great story of a shoot you can do while cooped up in those 4 walls of yours.
Now, any photo can tell lies, whether it be through a green screen background, acting subjects, or manipulation achieved in Photoshop. Most of us, upon hearing that something was 'faked', tend to hold that image at lower esteem, grappling onto the prejudice that tells us this is bad. However, I'm not convinced.
Sure, a journalistic image on a hot news topic, setup to push an agenda with acting subjects is deceitful and immoral, but that comes from the weight of the matter. Cosmetic advertising is another controversial example, though most of us swallow the unease of knowing a model was probably wider and spottier in reality, if at all such thoughts come to salivation in our minds.
But let's remember that photography is a form of art, and art is about taking inspiration and outputting it with our unique perspectives in imaginative ways. So, when you aren't carrying the weight of the press's integrity on your back, or working with portraits and desiring to restrain from enforcing unrealistic images of human beauty, there is room to create interest through the use of fiction.
So what has this got to do with my photo? And, how does it apply? Well, let's start with the genre.
Having been quite inspired by the experimental and humorous creations of Kaiman Wong (former presenter of DigitalRev TV - YouTube Channel), I have often enjoyed creative studio portraits involving messy, explosive substances (not of the lethal type!). Things such as water and confetti and glitter. One particular example that may have directly inspired today's image was a shot of a model holding an umbrella, while water was poured from above (embedded below).
So we've got the genre sorted - that is, fine art portraiture. Particularly that which involves the use of dynamic substances. Now, let's delve into my specific take on it.
First of all, you have the setup, which is where I became really creative and very DIY dependent. Unlike the guys from DigitalRev TV, I could not obtain access to a large studio space, nor the resources to facilitate and contain such a large spread of water. But I had a trick up my sleeve. Oh, and as I implied previously, water was to play an important role in my image. You see, we all (or at least most of us), have a miniature waterproof studio waiting by our toilet, known as a bath! There are, of course, restrictions with these, one being the small size. This tends to be impractical for 2 interconnected reasons, one is space to distance the camera from the subject, though this depends on the size of your bathroom. The other reason is the lack of space between the subject and the background. This, in most cases, is contained to approximately 1/2 a metre, with a wall meeting the backside of the tub. The lack of depth, then, in the composition is an issue, as it leaves little room to separate fore, mid and background subjects with a shallow field of focus. Nevertheless, using a lens with a large focal length, such as 50mm+, can be helpful and it was a life saver in the pursuit of an aesthetically pleasing image for me.
With all this said and done, I was still never going to take a photo in a plain old bath! Remember, the tub was just a facility to stop making an unnecessary mess. So, I grabbed a roll of a kind of black felt and scrambled around the edges of the tub with a few clips to secure it to the shower curtain rail and neighbouring shelf. This gave me a neutral background to work with, that mimicked the appearance of a studio setup.
With the background established, it was time to hop in for a wash. I had my trusty cousin around to help at the time, who very kindly poured water from a jug into my hand, letting the droplets fall through my fingers to create the calamity that had caught my eye in other people's fine art creations. That legend of a cousin put up not just with having to fill and spill from a jug, but my tedious commitment to silly photographic ideas that I get carried away with! The amount of time I've spent trying to get specific effects in photos would probably concern you.
Anyway, any good photographer would have a certain question dangling like a jug of bathroom tap water over their head at this point - what about lighting? Haha, what a shame it would have been to tug the cord of the tungsten ceiling light and let the camera roll as my washed out face (almost literally too!) gleamed into the lens. Fear not, I used a flash gun instead.
As far as I remember, it took a considerable amount of time to find a spot on the bathroom shelf to place the gun. It can be difficult to find 'that good angle' for light when you've got a stand (and space for one) to hold it up on, so this was even more of a challenge. Flash photography doesn't tend to take a prime position in my work, and so I still find myself experimenting with the settings of a gun and my camera to fill in the gaps in my understanding, as well as visiting online resources now and then.
Having finally placed the flash in a suitable position, I ran through the process of capturing images, setting a timer on the camera's shutter release (or getting my glamorous assistant to do it, I can't remember which too clearly), having the jug poured over my hand and experimenting with hand positions to get a dramatic water effect. After quite a while, I assume, I had taken a selection of pictures and was confident that there were a few that I could work with. Taking them into Photoshop, or whatever software I was using at the time, I touched up the chosen image and exported it in monochrome, this I felt put the cherry on the drama-iced cake.
I absolutely love this type of photography, because of how unexpected the contents would look had it been taken just a few metres further back - a domestic bathroom, a frustrated and tired teenager balancing on the edge of a tub as he pours water again and again, and a tiny little photographic flash gun. The flash, triggered by and working together with my camera's inbuilt one, did a wonderful job at painting the scene, minimally but powerfully, creating shape and form on my torso and head, while distinctly carving the presence of my hand for the eye to reach in climax.
Art is about taking inspiration and outputting it with our own unique perspectives in imaginative ways. I took my inspiration from the dynamic and dramatic scenes of Kaiman Wong. This photo is a great example of what you can do with resourcefulness and creativity, even within your own home. I love the sense of trickery that comes from a set like this one's construction and the bumped up sense of production value it induces. The image's interest and impact can be largely attributed to the fakery of the studio aesthetic, and that's why I think art can, in a lot of cases, be granted the space to let people escape reality and enjoy a story/art piece beyond the bathroom wall.
If you are interested in what I do, whether it be one of the creations shaken over and paid for, or made while sitting in my pyjamas and eating peanut butter straight out of the jar - make sure to follow me on Instagram, like my Facebook page and send any questions into email cyber-space at: