Contributor: August Bradley:
After running across a long-time collector of costumes from the Carnevale di Venezia (Carnival of Venice), I discovered the incredible range of hand-crafted masks. There was such emotion and personality to them, and the ornate décor conjured images of the masquerade parties they were designed for. When Hasselblad approached me to do a series of images to show off their latest camera, they left the subject matter to me. I knew instantly what I wanted to do with the project.
The idea further developed into the notion of layers of masks beneath the outermost masks we wear – secondary masks for those who dig deeper, or for ourselves. So makeup artist Kelsey Deenihan and hair stylist Carlos Ortiz and I developed concepts in which one mask would be coming off, only to reveal more masks in layers beneath. Or in other cases, a partial mask that melds into the face around it.
With the masks conveying a fantastical element, and the hair and decorative accessories being so vibrant, I wanted to bring the face and body into this sensational looking world with radiant lighting, but also wanted it to feel soft and organic. I was looking for strong highlights, but not glare – more of a glow as if it were coming from within.
The lighting was simple, just two heads and a bounce reflector. I used the Bron beauty dish with a Unilite and Scoro pack on the model and another head with a reflector and a grid to create the spotlight on the backdrop. The sock from the beauty dish was actually used over the background light (over the grid) to soften it, while the beauty dish itself was left bare for a bit more punch on the skin.
While a beauty dish is a very simple setup (the beauty dish high, and a bounce reflector low to fill the lower shadows), it can create a wide range of looks and requires precise placement. When working with a light source close to the subject as tends to be the case with the beauty dish, slight adjustments toward or away from the model change the effect of the light quickly. Too close and you’re blowing out the highlights and getting too sharp of a transition to the peaks. Too far and the light becomes hard and flat from the small light source.
The trick is to find the optimal balance through precision placement, it’s a matter of sculpting the light.