I have decided to focus on three Caravaggio paintings. These are Supper at Emmaus, the version in the National Gallery in London; Boy with basket of fruit, from the Gallery Borghese in Rome; and David and Goliath, the version in the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna. The reason I have decided on 3 is simply a matter of restriction – I may go back and do more at a later date, but an assignment has to be handed in at some point. By limiting the selection I aim to not get bogged down in the set-up and can experiment with the actual light. I chose these 3 particular Caravaggio images because as well as being images I like, they were images I felt I could work with. I was planning to do something with the “Conversion of St Paul on the road” but the structure and format of the image was proving too problematical so I dropped it.
I chose Caravaggio because he is ‘the man’ for painting with light. It appears I am not alone in reconstructing Caravaggio painting as photographs. For example – https://www.flickr.com/photos/126214085@N06/14704833703 – however there are quite a few, with even fashion photographers such as Mike Diver involved -http://www.cuded.com/2010/09/caravaggio-by-diver-aguilar. This didn’t bother me – as I am never very original and hadn’t planned on reconstructing the images verbatim. I wanted some irreverence in the images to give them a playful edge, but also to show examples of my life. My life isn’t made up of biblical scenes, but instead its a series of work, TV, reading, playing with the kids, taking them places, eating and sleep. How then can I introduce some of this life, this play centre repetition of tea parties and dress-up into the images of Caravaggio?
I organised a plain dry-run, without the Caravaggio format, just simple single figure, so as to test what technical requirements I would have. I had confirmed that I would be shooting inside. I found that I would need a tripod due to long exposures. I maintained a low ISO to try and maintain quality, and middle of the road F stop so that I was sure of getting a decent depth of field – I had no real interest in a shallow depth of field for thesis images. I had my partner on torch duty and she was directed where to spread the light. I had a second torch in a snoot (well a piece of black card) that was sometimes used as a second waving light but other times as a more constant light – it was proving difficult to wield both in the right place at the right time, but also using only 1 wasn’t giving sufficient light. If I had the exposure too long, then I lost some of the blackness, but also I moved too much, so it became out of focus which I don’t want – so a balance was found. I also used a remote release trigger to shoot when I was ready. I have bought a plane background material from eBay – some dodgy Chinese thing – and a frame to put it on. This will provide the backdrop. I found that I needed to use my 24-70mm lens, as because of the angles/ backdrop I needed something fairly tight, around the 60mm mark, and this is all I had – its a good lens anyway.
Supper at Emmaus was chosen as it was my favourite painting in the National Gallery in London. The supper will be replaced by a tea party – this is more typical of my life at home – in fact as I type this now the kids are having another one. Rather than two disciples discussing the crucifixion prior to recognising Christ, I plan on using ‘tea-party’ guests, with no uncertainty who is the central christ figure.
The Boy with the basket of fruit had morphed into a rather odd cuban dancer then subsequently into Elvis. The thought processes involved in this are rather obvious and cheesy – much of my thought processes are. I had decided on this image as it was regarded as ‘a genre piece, designed to demonstrate the artists ability’. When I read this I thought that this is exactly what I am looking for – a basis in which to show my ability. He is using this painting as a kind of tester. I looked at the painting and it reminded me initially of the cuban headgear, and then the boy’s Elvis quiff, so I planned out a Caravaggio portrait of Elvis – Vegas Elvis obviously. I had considered a full Vegas backdrop (you can buy a whole sunset strip image – I kid you not) but to include that was to lose completely the Caravaggio image, so I had to drop that.
David and Goliath shows Goliath’s severed head, hair held in David’s hand, his recently used sword. Initially I had thought I could recreate it in some form of Star Wars tribute, with Light Sabre aloft – again its amazing how many people already produce superhero recreated photographs – this guy does some interesting ones – http://www.danielpicard.com/index. But it was really the link (in my mind) between the severed head and a ‘Girls World’ dressing up head we have in the house, that lead me to consider the construction in terms of hairdressing. So I think I will play with those structures and see where they take me – see what these images reveal about me.
I have started making some notes regarding post production – getting a little ahead of myself, but I have been told to give clear indications of how my process is working. I would like the images to mirror the dimensions of the painting. I might veer away from gilt baroque frames, but you never know.
So really this is a play with the idea of ‘self portrait’. They are me, but of course they aren’t me, but of course they are. Hopefully the playing with light will make everything clearer when I produce them this week.