Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Rite of Spring or On Good Friday, with no Sacrificial Virgin to be found, the weather explodes

This series of images was driven by a program that Leslie Burns of the Burns Auto Parts Super Premium Blog has put out to photographers.   Every month since the beginning of this year, Leslie posts a new assignment that photographers can pick up and run with.   An image is due within about 4 weeks.  She compiles the submissions and posts her comments about the images and of course encourages comments from the contributors.

The latest assignment was Stravinsky's Rite of Spring.  That would be your pal, Igor Stravinsky from the class of the last century.  Now most of my experience of classical music can be wrapped up in K-Tel compilations of popular numbers by stars players like the Big Mo, Beethoven, Bach, Vivaldi, Puccini, Verdi, etc etc.  So what I know of classical music tends to be melodic and harmonious - easy to get along with (sort of how I like to think of myself).  So when I listened to the Rite of Spring, it was a WTF moment.  It was agitating, disturbing, unpredictable, and it did not sound anything like Vivaldi's La Primavera!

For me the jazz analogy to Rite of Spring would be something from Ornette Coleman or Miles Davis' Bitches Brew.   You know, the kind of stuff that made you think you could never like modern jazz.   At first blush, it was just too damn demanding considering you could just put on another record and share the blues experience with Louis Armstrong.

Off to wikipedia to get some info and context.  I have to admit I was a little relieved to read that at the premiere of the ballet - that's right, Stravinsky was commissioned to write the music for a ballet - the generally even tempered Parisian patrons were so shocked that police were called into the theatre.  In spite of their presence, a riot ensued after the intermission.  Ballets and riots?  Well, this was indeed starting to sound interesting.  You can read the the juicy details here.

Upon listening to the music several times, and within the context of what I'd read, I began seeing scenes from Arnold Schwarzenegger's film debut, Conan the Barbarian.  I began to suspect that I could be screwed!   I shifted gears and began considering setting up a ballet dancer themed shoot.   But then my idol Joe McNally has probably already done that and with perfect execution.  I'm screwed.  Weeks pass.  Deadline looming.

Then it happens.  Conan comes back from the dead!   There's a scene where the high priest, played by James Earl Jones (with bangs), explains the "secret of steel" to Conan prior to sending him to slow and torturous death.   The gist is that flesh is much stronger than steel.  And to prove the point the high priest (with bangs) beckons a young girl to jump to her death.  Viola!  I have my shoot!  I love deadlines!

Things start to move quickly.  I would need a high priest or two, and a young girl ala sacrificial virgin.   I put the word out with a little teaser  to some models I know, and immediately confirm a high priest and sacrificial virgin.  Soon after I secure a make up artist.  We will shoot on location at Beaver Lake.  I had just shot there a few weeks ago and I thought it would be perfect for this shoot.

I sent this out to my collaborators:

I want explore the theme of pursuit in this shoot.

I see the Sacrificial Virgin fighting for her survival.  She wants to live, break out and away from the traditions and conventions personified by the High Priests.   Think of the Sacrificial Virgin (SV) as the hope of progress, technology, innovation, and daring; while the Hight Priests (HP) represent the established power, the staunch, the conservative, rigid, the confident, and most importantly, they do not want to give up power.

With that in mind, here are some ideas that we can explore and collaborate:

SV leaps like a deer over an obstacle with HP following in background.  I've scouted a pretty cool looking pond at the location that might work well for this.
Variations of this shot could include the SV safely on the "other side", looking over her shoulder to see the HP menacingly and confidently glowering on the farside.

SV on her knees as the HP approaches her.   This could imply that the chase is over and that the SV is resigned to her doom.  We could also make it look like a bit of a ruse too, and that the SV is actually trying to get the HP closer to strike a final blow.

3.    I'd like to shoot some solos as well with the characters engaged in the following actions and feelings:  running, hiding, sleeping, praying, stalking, madness, ecstasy.

Then two days before the shoot, our Sacrificial Virgin cancels! Ouch! I scramble about to find a replacement but with the long weekend starting tomorrow, I dread that my luck will be slim to none. On Good Friday, with no Sacrificial Virgin to be found, the weather explodes. Ferries are canceled, communities loose power, boats sink, end of the world stuff - how apropos! Serves me right for trying to do a shoot on the weekend of Easter and Passover.

I explain the changes and options to the crew and recommend that notwithstanding high winds and heavy rains, we proceed with the shoot.  We would focus on the story of the High Priest, playing around with scenarios involving searching, stalking, praying, madness, ecstasy.  If they don't hear from me calling off the shoot due to weather, we will meet on location at 10 am.

Saturday morning.  The weather has mellowed: mild winds, no rain, overcast.

The model playing the High Priest is Michael Ward, a professional art model.  He is a genuine trooper and very resourceful.  Among the costumes he brought with him, was an Oberon number that I thought was perfect.  We also had him wear a grey wool suit, french cuffs, and bold striped tie under the Oberon robe to link the scene to a more contemporary and edgier time.  I described it as Vogue meets Druids.

For make up, I asked Christa Mitchell to give the High Priest a tribal theme with a sickly pallor: blotches, dark around the eyes.  We were going for menacing but something coming from old and strange ways.

We shot three set ups.  The common denominator lighting scope was a 60" softlighter as fill shot near camera axis, and a gridded strobe as the main.

Please check out the submissions from the photographers who submitted to Leslie's blog.


About This Blog

Adelio Trinidad is a Victoria B.C. based photographer. He typically works on his blog after his children have gone to bed.

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