Tom Walsh invited me to make a backing for his show Desperate Housewives. I used as much top light as I could to break the light across the surface of the leaves to maximize texture. I guess we could have used some clouds to make the scene better. Oh, well…
I met Tom on “The Clinic” many years ago. We rode with David Mitchell, the production designer, out to East Islip, New York one cold winter day. Tom has always had an energetic approach to his work, whether striding across Midtown from Grand Central to Times Square or driving from Los Angeles almost all the way to San Diego to shoot the paintings of Theodor Suess Geisel with me for television. He also introduced me to Sapporo. Midtown affordable. Yummers. But I should get back to the roughness part.
Remember Benoit Mandelbrot. He is the one who pointed out that we humans crave irregularity in our definition of beauty. “Don’t make things perfect”, if you will. The most perfectly drawn model in a computer, rendered with the best description of its surfaces and lighting just does not move our hearts like the real things do. Let’s look at a few illustrations together.
Remember Hogs and Heifers? It was the bar in the meat-packing district that was the inspiration for Coyote Ugly. I shot this scene for the movie in the neighborhood. We carefully planned this shot to have the light glancing over the surfaces. The director of photography, Amir Mokri, was so good that he predicted accurately when the light would be right. Lots of texture. Lots of roughness. My inspiration for texture lighting is from Andreas Feininger. His book, Total Picture Control, both informed my darkroom work, and gave me a love for large format photography of New York City. One of the giants, in my view.
For a different subject, one might think that the chrome and plastic of a 1950’s American car design would not follow the same pattern. But it does. Certainly in the plans, this dash would not have been truly beautiful, but in the execution of the making of it, wow. Completely different. Even the slight aging of this well preserved convertible adds to the eye’s pleasure.
Soft music does not emanate from this still image, but the string, wood, fabric, and natural elements all stand as touches to contrast with the tender youthful nature of this young musician’s skin. One type of beauty is that of the young.
As you compare this picture, note how flat and uninteresting I find the wall and the portrait of Mao, lacking in irregularity. Above him, the ancient architecture of the Forbidden City grants us its beauty by showing its imperfections. The Emperor had good designers and builders.