In Revealing Images, photographer Don Spiro dishes up sweet photographic treats and the stories behind them. Today, Don aims his lens at Bubbles La Rue.
This still is a promo shot that was used in the Velvet Hammer Burlesque’s program for it’s winter of 2001 show, which was my first burlesque photo shoot in a studio. Each shot in the program had it’s own style, and we chose to shoot this one like an old promotional photo of a mid century burlesque star that you might find in an old men’s magazine.
The number Bubbles did was a wild-west burlesque, and she wore the same costume in the photo that she wore on stage. She stood with one foot on a box that was lying in the studio, with one hand by the gun on her hip, the other holding the gun with her elbow on her raised knee. A pale grey paper seamless provided the backdrop, just like many of those old photos.
Looking through old magazines I noticed the photographers used a lot of hard light and didn’t care much about keeping shadows to a minimum. I love using hard light, and enjoy manipulating it by choosing the intensity and direction of the shadow. For this shot I wanted to shoot in the vintage style, but keep the light and shadows interesting. I decided to use old Hollywood glamour three point lighting, and see where the shadows fell.
I started with one hard light as a key off to the left side of camera, somewhat high, aimed down across her body, avoiding the background. You can see the shadows it makes from her nose across her cheek, from her head onto her camera-right shoulder, and from her legs off to frame right. I set a second light just above head level to the right of camera as a fill light, softening all the shadows on her body and on the ground, but creating a dark shadow on the background just behind her. This light kept her face from becoming too dark and gave me little glints on the metal parts of her guns and belt buckles.
Last, I put a light on a book pole and aimed it far over her head, just over the top of the seamless. This lit the top of her hat and her shoulders while throwing asoft, third shadow on the ground. The two lights creating shadows on the floor helped cancel each other and wash out each other’s shadows, but didn’t light the back of the seamless, so that shadow stayed dark.
I shot this with black and white film and my trusty Nikon with its 50mm lens. I like the moodiness of this piece and was extremely happy with how it was printed. To me, it really evokes the old time classic quality of those old magazines and publicity photos. I’m just as proud of it today as I was when I first shot it.