Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Portrait of The Sandalman

Final composited image of Cory Bernatt, the Sandalman, and his shop 
Many years ago my husband bought me a beautiful Bree leather purse. I used it relentlessly until it was a worn out shadow of its former glory. I put it away. Cut to 2017. A couple of months ago I came across my lovely purse in a storage box and felt it was time to see about resurrecting it, so I went online and found The Sandalman.  Funnily enough, it turns out I could have asked almost anyone if they knew a good leather repair shop because everyone seems to know this guy (AKA "a guy in a store that fixes leather").

Off I went to find his Davenport Avenue shop, and the second I walked in I knew I had to photograph it. Established over thirty years ago, in 1982, the store is a treasure trove of leather making tools and materials. It's the kind of space I love, filled with fascinating bits and pieces in various nooks and crannies. In its native light, a bit cluttered looking, but poised to become a rich and textured light painting, lit my way.

The shop sans any special lighting

Thankfully Cory Bernatt, an alumnus of Central Tech's art program (which looks amazing) was willing to indulge a fellow artist. So he stayed after work one day sacrificing his evening to my process which involves making multiple exposures of different parts of the person and space and then compositing them together later (and which I've explained before in previous posts like this one about my series of portraits of creative people in their spaces: ). The trick is that nothing can move during the process, including the person, at least while their section of the image is being captured. I used three different images to complete Cory himself. It's a lot to ask of someone you barely know when you're not even paying them, so I always hope the artists I photograph for these personal projects get at least a little bit of extra exposure, and some enjoyment out of the final images. And I hugely appreciate their willingness to participate in my work.

The Sandalman composite comprises parts of about thirteen distinct images, plus some repeated layers re-processed to different specs, as well as some nominal retouching. Here is an example of a frame, this one exposed specifically for the front of the desk.

One exposure made just for the front of the desk

Chronologically, it's actually, usually, the person section of the image I shoot first. Their placement in the image composition is critical, so I can't start exposing anything until I have them positioned and posed. Once they're set, since they can't move, it behooves me to get them them through the process as efficiently as possible so they can then relax and carefully extricate themselves from the set while I complete the rest of the exposures. 

Regarding the lighting, I use a fairly hard light source, which makes for some pretty dark and dramatic shadows. Anyone familiar with classic Hollywood portrait lighting from the golden age may have noticed that sometimes the light, while beautiful on most of the face, can create potentially objectionable shadows under the nose.

Royalty free portraits I've borrowed to illustrate harsh nose shadows in old Hollywood portraits

On this shoot, while I achieved exactly the shaping I wanted on Cory's face, neither one of us loved that the shadow cast under his nose made it look as if he had a mustache reminiscent of a certain World War Two leader. So during post-production, I combined a tiny section of a much more flatly lit frame of his face, with some additional retouching, to reign in the shadow and kill the offending mustache. 

Dull, flat-ish light (left), dramatic light (middle), corrected nose shadow (right)

It's always my goal to do as much as I can in camera, to get what I need, so I'm not creating a pile of tedious Photoshop work for myself (beyond the layering of the multiple images). But some issues, like this nose shadow, couldn't be avoided without compromising the overall look of the subject. The only other really extra Photoshoppy thing I had to do was draw in a section of the thread Cory is holding, as it was thin enough, and small enough in the overall image that it didn't entirely show up well on its own. It's not even visible in the final image at the top of this post, but you can see it (just) if you look at the image on my website.

That's about it for now. Thank-you for reading! I'll just wrap up with a few gentle requests:

If you are one of the many people who already know Cory (who currently has ads running on sixty TTC buses and caters to a cabal of famous customers, as well as, apparently, many of my less famous friends), please say hello for me next time you see him. And, if you are one of the few who don't know him and want to know more click here to go to his website, and check out the Media section (especially the "Man who helped deliver baby in Toyota..." story). 

If you know any creative people who work in small, interesting, even cluttered spaces, and you think they might be willing to entertain the idea of being photographed by me, please let me know. I'm always looking for my next subject. I promise I will make the person and the space look pretty!  

And, as always, if you or someone you know needs to look really good, please get in touch.

Kathryn Hollinrake ~ Making people and things look pretty ~

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