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Model Mayhem spotlight: Cinema Photography

Welcome to a new feature where we shine the spotlight on the work of our wonderfully creative and talented members. Instead of a wide-ranging interview we focus on a specific piece of work and discuss it in detail – from the inspiration to the technical details, to the emotion attached to the end result.

We hope you enjoy it and welcome your feedback.

— MM Edu

MM Edu: You have a very unique style, can you tell us a little about how you got started and your interests as a photographer?

Jase, AKA Cinema Photography: I like vintage things. Not for any real reason other than I have always been fascinated with the look and feel of things from times before 1960.  That’s why I like creating what I create. I have zero formal training in photography. None, nada, zip, zero, zilch. I went to film school and worked in the entertainment industry for almost 15 years.  Most of that time was spent as post-production guy. In-house editor would be pretty accurate. That’s how I started with Photoshop on version 2. I never read the manual, but sorted out how to do things we needed. I was asked by one of our Directors to put together a visual reference for a bid using other source materials. Pretty soon I was working on a lot of those for our production company, in addition to being the in-house editor. So that’s how I got hooked on Photoshop. I didn’t pick up a camera until 2006. For years I had talked about wanting to create some images, but never really got serious.

A really good friend finally told me to just go shoot. She volunteered to model for me. So I did. We shot for 8 hours. Everything I wanted to try we shot. So my first shoot was not only my first shoot with a model, it was my first nude shoot and my first creative shoot. Heck of a day though.

As soon as I started “cleaning” up the images in PS, I started creating the things I saw in my head – paintings, vintage themes…everything. I had some insane amount of material to work with, like 800 images, but fewer than 100 ever got worked on. Some worked and some didn’t. So yeah, I started sorting things out, asking how I could make this look like an image from 1925—but the way it looked the day it was developed, and then, how would it look now if it was found in a box in an attic some 80+ years later? How can I do this and that? I have not stopped shooting since.

The only reason I shoot is because I can’t paint. At all. Like M’s for birds and other nonsense. I just really suck a drawing.

The Gentleman Boxer circa 1904

Model: JCL

MM Edu: What was your inspiration for your Gentleman Boxer image?

Cinema Photography: I like to create things that would blend in with a set from a period film, for example. If you saw a movie about a bare-knuckle boxer in say New York in the late 1800s or early 1900s, and this was on a wall or a mantle or whatever, then this image would not stand out at all on it own. If it was seen as just a tiny set piece, then it blends in right? That was the goal: simple and period, without a lot of flashy stuff.

A model and friend I have shot with a lot, Jessica Mion had just finished a shoot with a 1920s theme (see below) and we talked after I had sent her some images about another shoot, but one with her boyfriend, JuanCarlos (and he is as cool as the name suggests). Their idea was some steampunk stuff and JuanCarlos had said he’d like to shoot some vintage boxing images. Well he does box, so that makes sense.  He showed me this very old image of a boxer from I think 1915 or so. The guy was this big bulky monster of a guy whose right hook must have hurt like hell. The idea was born, but I started looking into bare knuckle boxers going back to the Victorian era.  A few weeks later we shot. He is not a model either; he does animation for video games. But he fit this idea. So he agreed to shave his beard into that period look and the rest is, ironically, history.

Once I went into post, I just wanted to keep it simple. I decided it’d look old, but not destroyed; damaged, but not ruined; aged, but not fragile. That’s where I started with it in CS4.

MM Edu: How did you go about trying to achieve the idea and look you wanted?

Cinema Photography: The whole look and feel was pretty simple. The black sash was a brilliant wardrobe choice by JuanCarlos. We had seen a few of those in reference images and he just bought some material and there it was. I find it’s the little things that matter most. For me, that really made a huge impact on the image. It was such a small thing that made all the difference to me. I shot him on a light color seamless and used clean even light.

This gave me the best source image to do post work on. I won’t go over my workflow, but it is way more detailed than slapping a texture on an image and running a filter. The funny thing is that most of those details don’t show up online, but all the little details are all there when you see the larger printed image. For example, the texture of “print”, and the paper it was printed on, is a whole other thing versus what time has done to the image—the tones, the feel, etc. I have pictures my Grandmother gave me from Italy (where we’re originally from) that are printed on similar papers and have a similar look. So yeah, online versus holding a print makes a huge difference in what I do. The devil is in the details.

MM Edu: Did the photo turn out as you had planned or hoped it would? What kind of feedback did you receive?

Cinema Photography: In the end I loved how it came out. We did a whole series in this theme and I was really happy with the simplicity of the final image. It felt right and it felt period correct to me. Sometimes, it’s the little things and, for me, every time I see the shot I think how much that black sash sells me on this. I know it’s silly, but it’s true. So yeah, I spent about 4 hours with it and the result was really close to what was in my head. The feedback has been great and I am humbled by a lot I’ve gotten from photographers and models that I really respect and admire. That never fails to blow me away. I mean, after all, I’m just some goofball with wacky ideas…who can’t paint.

The Silver Screen Siren circa 1922

Model: Jessica Mion

MM Edu: I also really like the Silver Screen Siren image. Can you discuss your inspiration for that shoot, and any technical details you’d like to share regarding this particular shot?

Cinema Photography: One of the great things of the early days of cinema was the creation of something sort of new: The silver screen icon; the Motion Picture star; the siren. There was a very romantic ideal created when movie stars became part of the national conscience. That’s what inspired these images—classic Hollywood, from the birth of cinema until the late 1950. That is the golden era of the motion picture icon. I wanted to go back to the 1920s with this concept. When cinema had really begun to find it legs. Gloria Swanson, Mary Pickford, Theda Bara and Nita Naldi were iconic screen stars. Louise Brooks wasn’t even around for another 3 more years—even then she didn’t become known until 1928. So, I wanted to combine all of them into one person. I had a whole other concept I was going to do, but the model I booked got sick (really, not fake sick), so I was in a fix. Then I thought, “…Well I do have this other idea I’d love to get done.”

Again, Jessica Mion was my go to girl for this project. We had become pals after our first shoot. She was just amazing to put a lot of faith in me. I love her for it! I called her up, said I had a model cancel and, since that happened, how about this other thing I want to shoot? See, Jess shoots a lot, but nothing like my kind of nonsense. So I laid out the idea and she was in. Old Hollywood it was.

So, for this, I wanted to emulate several traits of the above noted actresses—most importantly the vampy seductress silent film type (without being corny of course). I needed a silver screen star. She was it. I had always planned on shooting her again, we both talked about it, but now karma had made it happen.

I storyboard all of my shoots. I design my shoots like I would a film, meaning I “produce” them with details, ideas—with concepts and a design in mind. I see the images in my head, and then I start the process of sorting out the little details.

MM Edu: Wardrobe is clearly a big factor in your works. Can you speak about working with the model and members of your team to give Jessica such a vintage look and feel in this image?

Cinema Photography: So with this shoot Jess, who is blonde, was going to be in a wig. I had started working with a fantastic MUA, Valentine who is my favorite MUA ever. She totally gets what I’m after, which is great because she is French and we make a lot of communication goof ups trying to talk sometimes. The fact that she understands what my thinking is and how my mind works remains a blessing. She went back to France for a bit, but I seriously look forward to her getting back. I digress.

Valentine had this wig and knew the look I wanted after I showed her some classic silent film images of movie stars. It’s also important to mention I have an assistant of sorts, Steph. Steph used to model, but doesn’t anymore, unless her and I come up with something low-fi, or just odd ideas I want to try out—then she’s right there ready to go. Steph keeps me on track and organized. She also assists every model I work with, which is really helpful. Steph is my production team. She knows all the details of every shoot, so when we hit the studio, she breaks out the production book, makes notes and reminds me to move on to the next set up when I have gotten everything I need to get.

My wife is the other amazing part of my team. She is my set designer and she looks out for things I might not see so I can fix them before I shoot and end up doing a facepalm over my goof ups. My wife also makes sure I don’t get off on wild tangents, which tends to happen. They are invaluable to every shoot for me. I get to focus on the scene at hand, and they make sure I don’t burn anything down.

Having a team really helps make what I do work. I doubt I would get 1/2 as much done without them. I mention that because a vintage themed and styled shoot takes planning. You can’t just wing it. You can’t shoot a really good vintage theme without a little knowledge. Definitely not the kind of thing you do as an afterthought. So once I get through the whole pre-production process and show up to the studio, we start working like a Swiss clock.

It’s really nice, because before I get in a studio to shoot, I tend to feel overwhelmed with ideas and worry I’ll end up wasting too much time with tangents. So I had planned the day with my friend Chad, who has been learning from me about vintage shoots, and in turn he’s taught me about using strobes—something I feared before trying them. I honestly prefer a continuous set up. It’s the cinema part of me I guess.

So Chad and I start working out the light details and I opt for some clean even light again. Unlike the George Hurrell stuff I shoot, this kind of image was meant to feel like a “Studio Promo” image. Back then, studios did a lot of those. I shot several set ups with this style and I was thrilled with the results.  Jessica is a rare model. She can act. She can deliver nuance and subtle emotions that really come across on film. She can work with my made up words and abstract descriptions of things. That’s how I tend to talk during a shoot—trying to describe, with the help of storyboards, what it is that I want. So, in the end, this came off without a hitch. Chad and I had planned several light set ups for the day, and this one was our most controlled.

MM Edu: How did you use post-production to achieve the look you wanted?

Cinema Photography: My post process on this was simple. Rich blacks. Offset by a nice vintage tones. A mix of a creamy brown/sepia and deep black make a nice presentation—a very vintage palette. My workflow was meant to be clean, not a thrashed image lost over time; I wanted it to appear as it would have when it was shot. Sometimes, to me, vintage doesn’t mean old, really. It just means time-period-correct. If you were alive in 1922, you didn’t see the world as vintage; it was just modern day to you. Looking back, I would say that we look at those times with a strange nostalgia that is only possible from today, but then, they did what they did because it was how it was done. I dig that.

Aviation 1953

Model: Mosh

MM Edu: This Aviation shot of Mosh is incredible. What can you tell us about your interests in pins ups, and your process in deciding how to express your take on them?

Cinema Photography: I love pin ups. LOVE them. Not just for the style but for the context of the time they are from. It was so tame by today’s standards, but back then, these were risky themes. These were the edge of the envelope for the day. Alberto Vargas is one of my biggest influences. So are Gil Elvgren, Al Moore and Earl Moran.

I got the chance to shoot with one of the most iconic models I knew of, Mosh. Hands down this was a very big deal for me. She was a model I really wanted to work with for as long as I had been shooting. When we booked a shoot, I was intent on getting only a few set ups, but making them very focused. We did Vintage Hollywood Glamour ala George Hurrell, and we did pin up. With the pin ups I went a different direction. I wanted to mix modern with the past—modern fetish and classic innocence. I had several of these images in my head and knew Mosh would be perfect for them. We planned the shoot and I made up my storyboards.

I planned on 3 set ups with her. So we shot a lot of pin up style poses. Let me just take a moment to say that shooting with Mosh is amazing. She is one of the most creative and inspired models I know. Seriously, she works really hard and she does an amazing job of collaborating. See, I digress again.

Okay, so I had wanted to create vintage advertising themes. This idea was born out of a love for pin up calendars that were part pinup and part ad. I shot this knowing I was going to put her atop a WW2 plane, the P-51 mustang. I’ve flown in one. It’s a very rare 2 seater. Let me tell you, it’s amazing. I love that plane and how it feels to fly in one.

Putting Mosh in this image was something I just had to do. Mosh and a P-51. That’s a perfect match. I also have a thing for vintage one sheet calendars. So for me, this was something I just wanted to shoot.

MM Edu: Did the process of shooting and working in post go as you expected?

Cinema Photography: This was going to be a Photoshop heavy image from the start. I posed Mosh under clean even light and sat her on a stool. I removed the stool in post and did what I do for pin ups in my workflow. This is another one you really gotta see in the printed form. The details are pretty amazing. Like with most things I do, they lose a lot of detail when you see them online. This image sold pretty well when I was in a gallery.

I love how it came out. I loved how almost everything I shot with Mosh came out. This was one of those images that I had seen in my head from the start, and knew how I was going to execute it. Not much of a story really, just a long time in CS4 making it happen. All in all, I like to shoot images I don’t see everywhere. I really shoot the things I would hang in my home or buy if I saw them in a store. I like to shoot the things I like. Also, the things I would paint if I could. I also do a lot of classical art inspired images.

Overall, being a photographer like me does have its limits. I rarely venture beyond 1960, if at all, so I tend to shoot in the way-back-when machine. I doubt I’ll ever shoot a Neanderthal themed shoot—that’s a bit too vintage, even for me. But who knows. I do, however, think that anyone who wants to shoot retro/vintage images should always do a lot of homework first. This goes for models as well as photographers. It’s such a niche thing and some people overlook that. Details mean everything.

cinema photography

cinema photography

I am an retro/art/vintage photographer. My specialties are Pin Up, 1920's-1950's, Classical Art and Vintage Hollywood Glamor. I enjoy working with creative people. It's inspiring. www.cinema-photography.net

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