How characters emerge for Prof. Allen Hochman’s photography students

One of the things that intrigues Photography Professor Allen Hochman is the degree of “problem-solving” required to produce a stellar image. For their Introduction to Light final projects, students had to photograph a fictional or historical character. Several here discuss how they brainstormed, dealt with lighting and styling considerations, and in one case, put together a team for the day of the shoot.

“Eris” by Victor Pickens

In photographing Eris, the goddess of discord, Victor Pickens, encountered some tumult of his own. The day of his shoot, his team canceled. “I enlisted the help of a friend, a sophomore, and a fashion design student I flagged down in the hallway. It was a blessing. The student stylist draped the dress in classical style in keeping with the goddess’ chaotic nature.”

His process:

  1. Aimed a light from above, cascading the elimination from the apple down toward the ensuing chaos.
  2. Printed the photograph and prepared a wooden panel coated in gold leaf for contrast between the “simplistic and gaudy style of Byzantine icon paintings and the crisp, seemingly shallow, Classical style.”
  3. Added highlights and text in egg tempera, with Greek words such as Kallisti (for the fairest; kano polemos (make war); Eris vikae (Eris prevails); xaos (chaos); and kati (evil eye). The halo is typical of Byzantine icon paintings.

“I love mixing fine art with fashion photography. I feel it is a successful image I am proud of,” says Perkins.

Medusa turning into stone by Briana Bene-Espinal

“I wanted to show the story of Medusa dying and turning to stone from her own reflection,” says Briana Bene-Espinal.

Her process:

  1. Chose a model with piercing blue-green eyes, to create the eerie look of Medusa.
  2. Created a golden neckpiece of snakes, and applied gold and glowing makeup.
  3. Photographed in her bathroom — where she was able to create a mist using a mechanism that creates fogs in fountains — she created the ambiance of an underwater cave.
  4. Photoshopped part of the character’s face to appear as though Medusa is transforming into stone as she looks at herself.
“If Huey Freeman was a Girl,” By Kristen Jones

“Choosing how to go about this assignment was a challenge at first,” says Kristen Jones.  I’m proud of what I came up with.” Jones chose Huey Freeman, who appears in the T.V. show “The Boondocks,” an adult cartoon she says is “super funny and relatable.”

Steps she took:

  1. Balanced her tripod on wooden boxes to get the camera to be taller than herself.
  2. Connected her camera to her phone so that she could press the shutter button remotely.
  3. Lit the photo by placing a scoop light on the inside of a bookend to create an even, diffuse light. In post-processing, she played with the lighting, shadows, and textures to create the filter seen in the photos.

“I had to position myself in order to mimic Huey’s expression, and to look flat-chested. While I titled this “If Huey Freeman was a Girl,” I wanted the photo to look as close to him as possible,” says Jones. “I’m proud of what I came up with!”

Clown from “It” by Celia Banbahji

Celia Banbahji chose to photograph the clown from the movie “It.” “What better way to express my love of clowns?”

How it came about:

“Every October during Halloween, Six Flags has what’s known as Fright Fest where clowns and other scary creatures walk around the theme park and scare people…I told one of the guys with a chainsaw that I was a photographer and if he ever wanted me to do a photo shoot to let me know. I asked him if he had a clown suit and knew how to apply clown makeup and he did. We met and did a shoot near SoHo. It was probably the funniest and most amusing shoot I’ve done to this day,” says Banbahji.

Frida Kahlo By Nina Glover

Nina Glover chose a fictional version of the Mexican artist Frida Kahlo.  She did this by recreating Kahlo’s famous “Self Portrait as a Tehuana.”

Her process:

  1. Composed the image in two separate steps using photography and illustration. Took a photo of the combined image.
  2. Created a headpiece by layering real flowers and a decorative place mat similar to what Kahlo wears in the painting.
  3. Put white fabric over her body; printed the image on matte paper and drew Diego Rivera’s face onto Kahlo’s forehead.
  4. Drew the spider web and the design pattern onto the image along with signature brows and facial hair.

Her final step: “I put the picture in a frame to present it as a painting,” says Glover.

All photos used with permission.

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