Inspiration from Abelardo Morell’s “Pencils”

May 24, 2016  •  Leave a Comment

© Reidar Schopp, All Rights Reserved, www.RLSFoto.com.

 

Abelardo Morell photograph of pencils in Chicago_MG_4850Abelardo Morell photograph of pencils in Chicago_MG_4850© Reidar Schopp, All Rights Reserved, www.RLSFoto.com. Roaming the streets with Janien and Gigi. Covered many of the downtown streets with the high rises.

Abelardo Morell, b 1948

 

Inspiration is sometimes fickle, sometimes elusive, and sometimes a non-stoppable firehose. But, if not written down, it always fades away. Several years ago I realized that I had better document these moments of inspiration as I had realized that concepts were being forgotten. Conservatively, my “Need To Shoot” list is 63 pages with at least an average of 25 ideas per page. So, over 1,500 concepts to shoot. This list grows faster than I can shoot these concepts, so the list grows. Reminds me of Edison’s quote “1%  inspiration and 99% perspiration”. I need a patron!

One of the items on my “”Need to Shoot” document was inspired by a photo I came across at the “Art Institute of Chicago” on June 14, 2013 when visiting Janien and Scott Stantis in Chicago. The above photograph of pencils by Abelardo Morell stopped me. A photograph of pencils! My photograph of Mr. Morell’s image does not do it justice, but recorded it (The information about Mr. Morell to the right of his photo is in the appendix)

 The following series of photographs were created based on the black & white photograph consisting of over 300 sharpened pencils by Mr. Morell. It sounds so boring and commonplace. But, that inkjet print made in 2012 from a photo from 2002 stopped me in my tracks. I would hang that image in my house next to my William Mortensen’s, my mom’s art, and my photographs. This occurred June 14, 2013 yet I still carry this image in my memory. I need to make it my own.

Below, nearly three years later I finally made my first attempted at these pencils. I recruited my friend Carol Ballard to pose with 140 sharpened pencils. Getting the set assembled and the lights and camera in position, I realized that Morell used about 350 pencils! I should have counted the number of pencils in the photo before I got to this point. It is amazing how few 140 pencils appear. You know what else is truly very difficult? Getting them all standing on the erasure by oneself! Hugely underestimated the difficulty of this “simple” task. Ended up making a small short wooden box to hold the pencils vertical.

The studio set-up consisted of my Canon 5D Mark II and a Canon 1D Mark II that I converted to infrared for a Botswana Photo Safari a few years back. For the lighting of the color images (I converted all images to B&W), I used 2 of my Dynalite heads, one in a large soft box and the other in a strip soft box, both on light stands with one on each side of the camera. As I move the lights around during the shoot, I do not have specifics for each image although positions can be deduced by the shadows and reflections off the pencils and Carol’s eyes. For the infrared, I shot with one strobe as using 2 kicks off too much light. Also, my backdrop was a mottled blue of various shades.

The first image shot were the pencils alone. As models take time applying makeup and getting ready, I usually have a good 45 minutes to fine tune the set-up as a starting point. During this time, the image below was made. As I was short about 200 pencils, I shot diagonally to get extra width and depth to the pencils. I originally planned on shooting with my Canon 45mm Tilt/Shift but I was not getting the field of view I wanted, primarily a deep depth of field. I found that the Canon 100mm Macro was providing the best results – I decided on a sharp from row of pencils blurring into the distance.

Pencils_MG_3855Pencils_MG_3855© Reidar Schopp, All Rights Reserved, www.RLSFoto.com.
Inspiration is sometimes fickle, sometimes elusive, and sometimes a non-stopable firehose. But, if not written down, it always fades away. Several years ago I realized that I had better document these moments of inspiration as I had realized that concepts were being forgotten. Conservatively, my “To Shoot” list is 63 pages with at least an average of 25 ideas per page. So, over 1,500 concepts to shoot. This list grows faster than I can remove completed concepts from these pages. Reminds me of Edison’s quote “1% inspiration and 99% perspiration”. I need a patron!

This series is created from a black & white photograph I saw consisting of over 100 sharpened pencils in black & white by Abelardo Morell’s from 2002 at the Art Institute of Chicago. Seriously, a photograph of sharpened pencils. It sounds so boring and commonplace. But, that inkjet print made in 2012 from a photo from 2002 stopped me in my tracks. I would hang that image in my house next to my William Mortensen’s, my mom’s art, and my photographs. This occurred June 14, 2013. I am cheating on the date as I photographed that photograph as well as the information to the right of the framed sepia print which I just looked up. I placed this image into my “To Shoot” list to see if I can make these pencils as intriguing as Morell made his plus, I need to make it my own.

Here I am nearly three years later and I finally made my first attempted at these pencils. Place, I recruited my friend Carol Ballard to pose with these sharpened objects. At this point my friends and probably my wife Gigi are saying more naked photos. But seriously, am I wrong that nude women in photos are good? This should be a debate for another time. Here, I am using the inspiration of Morell’s amazing photo of pencils. About 350 pencils! I should have counted the number of pencils in the photo first as I purchased 140 thinking that is a lot of pencils for this pho

1/60 sec f8 manual setting with 2 soft boxes. Color converted to B&W

 

The following image was Carol’s hands holding the pencils to introduce a person into the image. Although pencils alone represent the work and ingenuity of humans, I wanted the hands to control the pencils, including the literal meaning as the pencils were too loose in the box. Carol’s hands brought order. To get this image, I switched to the Canon 70-200mm. As this was shot with my infrared camera, I left the strobes output the same even though the camera settings were changed to shoot at 1/200 sec at f20 with the ISO increased to 400 (I prefer 100 and is my default setting). This set-up provided a very good depth of field throughout the group of pencils.

Pencils and Fingers_U8R7934Pencils and Fingers_U8R7934© Reidar Schopp, All Rights Reserved, www.RLSFoto.com.
Inspiration is sometimes fickle, sometimes elusive, and sometimes a non-stopable firehose. But, if not written down, it always fades away. Several years ago I realized that I had better document these moments of inspiration as I had realized that concepts were being forgotten. Conservatively, my “To Shoot” list is 63 pages with at least an average of 25 ideas per page. So, over 1,500 concepts to shoot. This list grows faster than I can remove completed concepts from these pages. Reminds me of Edison’s quote “1% inspiration and 99% perspiration”. I need a patron!

This series is created from a black & white photograph I saw consisting of over 100 sharpened pencils in black & white by Abelardo Morell’s from 2002 at the Art Institute of Chicago. Seriously, a photograph of sharpened pencils. It sounds so boring and commonplace. But, that inkjet print made in 2012 from a photo from 2002 stopped me in my tracks. I would hang that image in my house next to my William Mortensen’s, my mom’s art, and my photographs. This occurred June 14, 2013. I am cheating on the date as I photographed that photograph as well as the information to the right of the framed sepia print which I just looked up. I placed this image into my “To Shoot” list to see if I can make these pencils as intriguing as Morell made his plus, I need to make it my own.

Here I am nearly three years later and I finally made my first attempted at these pencils. Place, I recruited my friend Carol Ballard to pose with these sharpened objects. At this point my friends and probably my wife Gigi are saying more naked photos. But seriously, am I wrong that nude women in photos are good? This should be a debate for another time. Here, I am using the inspiration of Morell’s amazing photo of pencils. About 350 pencils! I should have counted the number of pencils in the photo first as I purchased 140 thinking that is a lot of pencils for this pho

1/200 sec f20 ISO 400 manual setting with 2 soft boxes. Infrared converted to B&W

 

The third image shows how Carol can flex her fingers backward. My initial impression was that of a frog’s foot, the second being repulsion; not that she can do this but the fingers moving away from the pointed tips. I always prefer working with models that have a point of view. I had shown Carol the pencils by Morell’s before starting the shoot and that I wanted to play with his concept and take it in a different direction. Carol understood the concept and this was one of her contributions.

Repulsion of Pencils_MG_3865Repulsion of Pencils_MG_3865© Reidar Schopp, All Rights Reserved, www.RLSFoto.com.
Inspiration is sometimes fickle, sometimes elusive, and sometimes a non-stopable firehose. But, if not written down, it always fades away. Several years ago I realized that I had better document these moments of inspiration as I had realized that concepts were being forgotten. Conservatively, my “To Shoot” list is 63 pages with at least an average of 25 ideas per page. So, over 1,500 concepts to shoot. This list grows faster than I can remove completed concepts from these pages. Reminds me of Edison’s quote “1% inspiration and 99% perspiration”. I need a patron!

This series is created from a black & white photograph I saw consisting of over 100 sharpened pencils in black & white by Abelardo Morell’s from 2002 at the Art Institute of Chicago. Seriously, a photograph of sharpened pencils. It sounds so boring and commonplace. But, that inkjet print made in 2012 from a photo from 2002 stopped me in my tracks. I would hang that image in my house next to my William Mortensen’s, my mom’s art, and my photographs. This occurred June 14, 2013. I am cheating on the date as I photographed that photograph as well as the information to the right of the framed sepia print which I just looked up. I placed this image into my “To Shoot” list to see if I can make these pencils as intriguing as Morell made his plus, I need to make it my own.

Here I am nearly three years later and I finally made my first attempted at these pencils. Place, I recruited my friend Carol Ballard to pose with these sharpened objects. At this point my friends and probably my wife Gigi are saying more naked photos. But seriously, am I wrong that nude women in photos are good? This should be a debate for another time. Here, I am using the inspiration of Morell’s amazing photo of pencils. About 350 pencils! I should have counted the number of pencils in the photo first as I purchased 140 thinking that is a lot of pencils for this pho

1/60 sec f8 ISO 100 manual setting with 2 soft boxes. Color converted to B&W

 

The next step was to bring Carol’s figure into the image, to contrast the sharp points and rough ground wood against a smooth female figure. I again tried the Canon 45mm Tilt/Shift lens. The first few pencils looked sharp and crisp, but Carol appeared as snowcapped hills in the distance. First interpretation was a “white blob in the background” but I believe all models would not be appreciative of such a description of their figure. Returning to the 70-200mm at f8 at 1/60th, I had enough sharpness to provide the viewer the clarity of a woman’s hip. I asked Carol to again point to the pencil tips to contrast the pointing finger to the sharpness of the pencils

Pencils and Carol's Finger_MG_3877Pencils and Carol's Finger_MG_3877© Reidar Schopp, All Rights Reserved, www.RLSFoto.com.
Inspiration is sometimes fickle, sometimes elusive, and sometimes a non-stopable firehose. But, if not written down, it always fades away. Several years ago I realized that I had better document these moments of inspiration as I had realized that concepts were being forgotten. Conservatively, my “To Shoot” list is 63 pages with at least an average of 25 ideas per page. So, over 1,500 concepts to shoot. This list grows faster than I can remove completed concepts from these pages. Reminds me of Edison’s quote “1% inspiration and 99% perspiration”. I need a patron!

This series is inspired from a black & white photograph I saw consisting of over 100 sharpened pencils in black & white by Abelardo Morell’s from 2002 at the Art Institute of Chicago. Seriously, a photograph of sharpened pencils. It sounds so boring and commonplace. But, that inkjet print made in 2012 from a photo from 2002 stopped me in my tracks. I would hang that image in my house next to my William Mortensen's, my mom’s art, and my photographs. This occurred June 14, 2013 when visiting my wife's sister Janien and her husband Scott Stantis who live in Chicago. I am cheating on the date as I photographed that photograph as well as the information to the right of the framed sepia print which I just looked up. I placed this image into my “To Shoot” list to see if I can make these pencils as intriguing as Morell made his. Plus, I need to make it my own.

Here I am nearly three years later and I finally shot my first attempted at these pencils. I recruited my friend Carol Ballard to pose with these sharpened objects. At this point my friends and probably my wife Gigi are saying more naked photos. But seriously, am I wrong that nude women in photos are good? This should be a debate for another time. Here, I am using the inspiration of Morell’s amazing photo of pencils. About 350 pencils! I should have counted the number of pencils in

1/60 sec f8 ISO 100 manual setting with 2 soft boxes. Color converted to B&W

 

 

Running through various set-ups with Carol and the pencils, I thought of having Carol hold the pencils close, the points pressed into her skin, her thumb exploring the points. Again, this image contrasts Carol’s softness to the sharp and rough pencils, but in this case displaying her comfort of the points pressed into her skin. Unlike the prior image where she is exploring the pencils sharpness, here she has found security.

Hug of Pencils_MG_3912Hug of Pencils_MG_3912© Reidar Schopp, All Rights Reserved, www.RLSFoto.com.
Inspiration is sometimes fickle, sometimes elusive, and sometimes a non-stopable firehose. But, if not written down, it always fades away. Several years ago I realized that I had better document these moments of inspiration as I had realized that concepts were being forgotten. Conservatively, my “To Shoot” list is 63 pages with at least an average of 25 ideas per page. So, over 1,500 concepts to shoot. This list grows faster than I can remove completed concepts from these pages. Reminds me of Edison’s quote “1% inspiration and 99% perspiration”. I need a patron!

This series is created from a black & white photograph I saw consisting of over 100 sharpened pencils in black & white by Abelardo Morell’s from 2002 at the Art Institute of Chicago. Seriously, a photograph of sharpened pencils. It sounds so boring and commonplace. But, that inkjet print made in 2012 from a photo from 2002 stopped me in my tracks. I would hang that image in my house next to my William Mortensen’s, my mom’s art, and my photographs. This occurred June 14, 2013. I am cheating on the date as I photographed that photograph as well as the information to the right of the framed sepia print which I just looked up. I placed this image into my “To Shoot” list to see if I can make these pencils as intriguing as Morell made his plus, I need to make it my own.

Here I am nearly three years later and I finally made my first attempted at these pencils. Place, I recruited my friend Carol Ballard to pose with these sharpened objects. At this point my friends and probably my wife Gigi are saying more naked photos. But seriously, am I wrong that nude women in photos are good? This should be a debate for another time. Here, I am using the inspiration of Morell’s amazing photo of pencils. About 350 pencils! I should have counted the number of pencils in the photo first as I purchased 140 thinking that is a lot of pencils for this pho

1/60 sec f8 ISO 100 manual setting with 2 soft boxes. Color converted to B&W

 

 

The set also included color pencils. Initially, the concept was to work with Carol’s tattoos, in particular the snake on her left breast. But, I did not discover a voice to combine the pencils and tattoos. For me, it is frustrating when you have an idea, but you cannot execute. The progress to this image went from pencils and her breasts, to her holding the pencils against the backdrop (seeing if I can get an image similar to “Father’s Hands & Citron”) to thinking of “My Favority Martian”. It ended up reflecting my frustration with the colored pencils beating them against my skull.

Color Pencils_U8R8000Color Pencils_U8R8000© Reidar Schopp, All Rights Reserved, www.RLSFoto.com.
Inspiration is sometimes fickle, sometimes elusive, and sometimes a non-stopable firehose. But, if not written down, it always fades away. Several years ago I realized that I had better document these moments of inspiration as I had realized that concepts were being forgotten. Conservatively, my “To Shoot” list is 63 pages with at least an average of 25 ideas per page. So, over 1,500 concepts to shoot. This list grows faster than I can remove completed concepts from these pages. Reminds me of Edison’s quote “1% inspiration and 99% perspiration”. I need a patron!

This series is created from a black & white photograph I saw consisting of over 100 sharpened pencils in black & white by Abelardo Morell’s from 2002 at the Art Institute of Chicago. Seriously, a photograph of sharpened pencils. It sounds so boring and commonplace. But, that inkjet print made in 2012 from a photo from 2002 stopped me in my tracks. I would hang that image in my house next to my William Mortensen’s, my mom’s art, and my photographs. This occurred June 14, 2013. I am cheating on the date as I photographed that photograph as well as the information to the right of the framed sepia print which I just looked up. I placed this image into my “To Shoot” list to see if I can make these pencils as intriguing as Morell made his plus, I need to make it my own.

Here I am nearly three years later and I finally made my first attempted at these pencils. Place, I recruited my friend Carol Ballard to pose with these sharpened objects. At this point my friends and probably my wife Gigi are saying more naked photos. But seriously, am I wrong that nude women in photos are good? This should be a debate for another time. Here, I am using the inspiration of Morell’s amazing photo of pencils. About 350 pencils! I should have counted the number of pencils in the photo first as I purchased 140 thinking that is a lot of pencils for this pho

 

 

 

 

 

Image Shot on: March 25, 2016

Model: Carol Ballard

© Reidar Schopp, All Rights Reserved. Photography by Reidar Schopp. All works for sale at RLSFoto.com. Limited Editions available in sizes above 8x12.

 

Appendix

 

To the right of Morell’s image of the pencils was the following:

 

Over the past 25 years, Abelardo Morell (American, born Cuba 1948) has become internationally renowned for works that employ the language of photography to create moments of visual surprise and wonder. Morell came with his family to the United States as a teenage in 1962. He rec3eived a scholarship to attend Bowdoin College in Maine, where he took his first photography course; he later completed an MFA in photography at Yale University, looking to street photographers such as Henri Cartier-Bresson and Robert Frank as models. After the birth of his son in 1986, he began making large-format pictures around his home, examining common household objects with child-like curiosity. As a professor at the Massachusetts College of Art and Design, he experimented with optics in his teaching and initiated a series in which he turned an entire room into a camera obscura, photographing the projection of the outside world onto the surfaces of the room’s interior.

These twin poles – examining objects and images with fresh vision and exploring simple optics in myriad forms – have been consistent orientation points for many series that have followed. Morell has turned his camera on conveyors of cultural meaning such as books, maps, money, and museums in extensive series that explore the perception of images. He has experimented with techniques as varied as photograms, still-life tableaux, stop-motion studies, and most recently the tent camera – a kind of portable camera obscura that throws the image of a landscape upon the ground’s surface. Now, after decades of working exclusively in black and white, he has embraced color, returning to old themes and series to view them in a new spectrum while pioneering ways to understand optical effects, nature, and picture making. This retrospective of over one hundred works made from 1986 to the present traces Morell’s innovative career as he continues to mine the essential strangeness and complexity of images.


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