In Revealing Images, photographer Don Spiro dishes up sweet photographic treats and the stories behind them. Today, Don aims his lens at Selene Luna, currently of the Margaret Cho show
One of my favorite shots I’ve done was of Selena Luna for Augusta’s Velvet Hammer documentary. Augusta directed her as her burlesque persona, Bobby Pinz, in a humorous homage to Attack of the Fifty Foot Woman.
Because of the requirements of the shoot everything was based around a location that would work, and we found one in the hills of Burbank that was both secluded and offered a low horizon line. This was critical because we intended to use forced perspective to make Selene appear gigantic, which depended on having a background clear of objects that would destroy the illusion. The angle was chosen carefully to exploit the natural advantages of the set. The crew was small, just Selene, Augusta, our make up artist and myself.
The position of the sun was up to frame left at the time we chose to shoot, and its arc would stay on that side all day, so I used that as the key light. While Selene got into make up and wardrobe Augusta designed the set: small, scale toy buildings and lichen from a model railroad, which Selene would walk amongst and occasionally crush. I set the camera down near ground level, which would simulate eye level of the buildings, and put on a wide angle lens to shoot looking up at Selene as she posed. I kept the camera mostly horizontal to emulate the aspect ratio of movies and tv.
The way Augusta had placed the set enabled us to incorporate actual elements in the distance, including far away trees, hills, and even telephone poles. Due to the angle they didn’t appear so much far away as they did small in comparison to Selene. They seemed the same scale as our small model buildings.
Because there were no clouds, just a bright blue sky, the sun threw hard shadows in high contrast. To make the image more flattering a large white bounce-board filled in from the right side of the frame. The image was taken with 400 speed color film exposed at 320 to reduce grain a bit, but the fast speed let me to shoot at an aperture of f/22, allowing for maximum depth of field. I wanted everything to be in focus from the ground at Selene’s feet to the far distant tree tops.
During the video sequence a helicopter slowly crossed the frame, very far away. At our angle it appeared to be near Selene’s waistline, further extending the illusion of her as a giant. Because of the video aspect of the shoot everything had to be done in-camera, and I am glad that the stills were done the same way, without benefit of post production. To me, the illusion is best when a model can interact with an actual environment.