Saturday, July 25, 2009

BECOMING AN ARTIST: includes some RATHER EARLY PHOTOGRAPHIC WORK

photos ©
Heather Harris 
1966, 1968.
Models: Robin Stickney, Heidi Cooper







I drew pictures from age three, always from photographs. In my early teens I became aware of copyright law, so took up photography from which to draw with impunity. Then I shot photos because it was like drawing but quicker, with your ideas still on paper like my drawings. These were not snapshots, but pictures of friends that we planned ahead. All the locations were trespassed to get these shots, and were taken with my first 35mm camera, a used Edixa with Tri-X.
 
Below © 1969 Heather Harris. Jim Suede at the San Gorgonio Pass (near Palm Springs CA) when the Cabazon dinosaurs first were being erected.


Below photos © 1969, 1970 Heather Harris (Suzie Mathers, Sally McMahon. For more about the model on the left see LINK.) I had finally been able to afford a Nikon camera.























I was self-taught. These were more portrait experiments with shots of friends (for how I learned available light concert/action shots, here: LINK.) I unintentionally was gravitating towards tighter "studio" cropping, higher contrast, and occasionally a cinematic feel. (Models below right, Teri Digneo and Steve Gross. I've forgotten who my 1930s-inspired Glam model visitor on the left was.) I was pushing the Tri-X for portraits now ("fast film") as well as for my live music shots.

photos © 1971 Heather Harris 

 
Once I was at UCLA, I had access to renting darkrooms and could manipulate the photos of my friends. Everything you all now do in Photoshop with a click, I did in a darkroom with silver nitrate, fixative chemicals and light. The above (Barbara Legarra) was shot in a dorm room in front of a poster, then converted to Kodalith for high-key effect. Below, Crickette Lum in two location shoots, not trespassed as we lived there respectively.
 

When I initially upgraded to studio lighting (my first were tungsten!) it was immeasurably easier to take photos of my friends, as I had subconsciously been working towards a studio look since I picked up a camera, using directional light from lamps, car headlights, windows with curtains blocking what I didn't want, etc.
Below is one of the last photos I took of a friend as a portrait experiment. I had been getting work as a photojournalist since the late 1960s in college, but hadn't advertised myself as a portrait photographer until I had the studio equipment and more self-taught expertise to insure I could manufacture whatever look was called for in a studio. For these first forays, of course it helps if your friends are professional models, like these last two subjects (Leslie Kenhart above, Linda Daddy below) were!
I am no longer in touch with any of these friends from my photographic past except a handful online: few of these subjects lives in Los Angeles any more.

4 comments:

Dan & Margaret said...

I read recently that Tri X is about to go the way of Kodachrome....

Fast Film said...

I had abandonned TR-X for T-max the nanosecond it came on the market, despite the dearth of pro labs able to handle it even here in Hollywood. And Extrapress was my best friend color-wise. The fastness of both, you know.

But now...digitial killed the negative star...

Would this be Dan and Margaret of Shot on Site?

Dan & Margaret said...

Yes it would... That's Dan who, when he shot B&W way back when, shot Ilford HP5 ;) or Fuji Neopan.

Fast Film said...

Heck, I used "police film" for that 1969 live Who shot on my website to get the maximum push. Its instructions specified "focus on the suspect" rather than "focus on the subject." That was my only option for really fast B&W.

I liked the Ilford papers then. I'd buy glossy paper and print it matte.

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