I took my photographs in silence... I never worked with anyone else in the room - no distractions.
The process wasn't about talking - or putting the sitter at ease - and I began to realise that the fairly lengthy experience did certain things to people. They began to inhabit their own skin - the animation and gesture of the moment gave way to something that was inherently about themselves and their direct involvement in the process.
The Gandolfi 5 x 4 camera that I used had to be assembled and erected on a tripod, the lens inserted, position of camera and focus of lens established. All of this was partly conducted from under a dark cloth whilst looking into the back of the camera - where the image could just about be seen. The image was of course upside down and back to front. Then the lens was set, the dark slides inserted and slide cover removed…then I was ready to take the photograph.
I preferred working indoors using the available natural light, no flash, so exposure times could be quite long. It was hardly a social occasion and I can’t really recall that I ever said anything. I must have done of course – up to a point – but I never gave instructions about what clothes to wear, pose to adopt, or what they should do with their hands or feet. The only thing I always said was to describe the sound the shutter would make as the photograph was being taken (a click and a purr) … and that I would be obliged if they would refrain from blinking.
I suppose it was an arduous, rather exacting experience for many of the subjects.
Young Girl, 1973
…'there's a kind of power thing about the camera...everyone knows you've got some edge. You’re carrying some slight magic which does something to them. It fixes them in a way' - Diane Arbus
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