A THOUSAND WORDS - Alex Waterhouse-Hayward's blog on pictures, plants, politics and whatever else is on his mind.


Klass From Weimar
Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Of late when I photograph someone in my studio I just might shoot a roll of 120 film with all of its 10 exposures. But it is not happening as often. I find myself shooting 5 or 6 and stopping. At one time, when film was king, art directors and photo editors would say, "Shoot lots of film. Film is cheap." With digital cameras (if you don't consider the expense of keeping up with your digital Joneses) it is even cheaper than film as each exposure is free. Film varieties are being discontinued and what remains is expensive. Luckily I still process my own.

But how is it possible to shoot a magazine assignment with 5 or 6 exposures? I have recently found the answer in my photo classes at Focal Point. My students crop their pictures in all possible ways. Some of these crops work, most don't. But you simply have to do this until your brain's memory stores what works and what doesn't. My students practice on models that the school hires. I supervise and give a few pointers. I am patient. I did the same.

It all started when I started printing my negatives in 1962. I would put a negative in an enlarger and perhaps get 20 interpretations of my shot. I would crop it here and there and make horizontal photographs vertical, and the vertical ones horizontal. But when I purchased my Mamiya RB in 1975, its large viewfinder gave me the impetus to crop in-camera. This is a habit that became obsessive. I never crop. I like the discipline that less freedom gives me in photography. I have to make up my mind before I press the shutter.

Today when I was perusing some of my files I had a hard look at Kimberly Klass's. I photographed her three or four times about 15 years ago and judging by the amount of negatives I have of her, I shot a lot. I experimented with all sorts of in-camera crops. And just like some of my students's crops don't work neither do mine.

I realize that Klass had patience as I made her pose in all matter of positions. I also see many photographs that don't look like me idea or are my style. But they work because Klass was more than a patient subject. She had the gumption to suggest and convince. Thanks to her, and other like her from my past, I can now shoot 5 or 6pictures instead of a whopping 10!

There is a wonderful look to Kimberly Klass. She looks like a woman that might have hopped on a time machine during the post-war German Weimar Republic and visited me in my studio or might have posed for Man Ray on the way. I don't know where Klass is now but I am very glad I was able to learn from her when she was around.

More Kimberly Klass


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