My art teacher, my photography teacher, my life teacher, my father.
I told my father that I wanted to do a portrait of him, and at the age of 91 he thought that might be a good idea. On his last trip to Los Angeles, I got him to sit for me at my studio. It was his last day in LA and it was about 10:00 pm. I knew it had to be good because he was an excellent portraitist in his day and I wanted to do him justice. Although legally blind, he continued to paint until the very end and did some of his best work during that period. That was the indomitable spirit of my father!
“So Dad what music do you want to hear while I set up the lights and background? “Ray Charles” he said. Now, I have just about every side Ray ever recorded so I knew I would have plenty of time to fiddle with things. When I was ready, he was still very into the music so I told him I would shoot while he was listening. Well, he became so animated that he was literally dancing in his seat which was not exactly what I had in mind. I put my camera down and waited till the last tune was over. I took one shot before my father said, “Does everyone have to sit this long for you?” By now it was about 12:30 am. I smiled and replied, “Ok, that’s it Dad”. It was a wonderfully poignant moment, and I am happy with the result.
lighting: 2 Elinchrom EL 500 studio flash units, black seamless paper. What I had in mind was to use the chiaroscuro (pronounced key-arrow-skoo-row) lighting employed by the old masters. I decided on short lighting, that is emphasizing the side of the face farthest from the camera and leaving the close, or larger side in shadow. The key light is in an Elinchrom 27×27″ softbox at camera right and behind the subject about 12′ high. The fill light in a 72″ Elinchrom Octa Bank placed at camera left, at a 45 degree angle, 5′ in front of the subject.