The One With the Chair

A few days before Christmas vacation, we were handed our Christmas bonuses. That weekend, when walking in my old hood, The Beaches, I noticed a new antique pop-up store next to Ends. Needless to say, I went in to see what treasures could be found. It was destiny to have found a beautiful Victorian chair and a mid 1930’s sewing machine. Destiny? At that time I was wondering what my next Anachronist shoot would be. When I saw the chair in the window, I knew immediately what that shoot would become. In the case of the sewing machine, my 1950’s Omega was on the fritz. Quite the regression, I agree, but it works wonderfully! Each was bought at an amazing price, including delivery.

More recently, a girl, who also uses the studio space, and I went halves on a storage locker a block away. How convenient! Slowly we’ve been filling it up with things like chairs, fabric backgrounds, fake flowers and other things. I have a feeling our little 5×5 storage unit will soon be full enough upgrade before too long. Especially at the rate I’m going because on my way to work one day, walking up Pape Ave I found rolled up, slung over someone’s fence a beautiful area rug. There’s a large red (like Cool Aid) stain at the back and a small bare spot, but otherwise in excellent condition and thankfully not too large to prevent me from carrying it. So into storage it went. Along with a a new pair of IKEA faun coloured curtains bought at Value Village. The three most recent arrivals made up 90% of my set for this shoot.

It’s dangerous having a storage locker. It has become an excuse to go shopping for things that you think will do well on a set. When shopping at antique and second hand stores I’ve begun to ask myself a list of questions; How will this purchase fit into the look and design of your shoots? Does this object look authentic period wise? Is “X” amount of dollars really worth it for this purchase? How often will you use it? Are you buying for the sake of buying it, or will you use it? I’m sure there are many more questions I ask myself as I gaze in stunned contemplation around the store. My general rule, if it’s something amazing that you just can’t pass up, buy it! If it’s on the sidewalk in good condition, take it! Back to the subject at hand.

When looking back at these photos, I love how the colours are so soft and graceful. The background, the curtains and the first two costume changes worked well. When the image is changed to sepia, it’s a cohesive image. That being said, some of the images do well with an autochrome treatment. Something I’ve recently discovered in the many hours of pouring through Pinterest.

A while back I had asked my friend and sewing teacher, Marianne from Costume Witch, to help me with dressing and keeping an eye on the general all around look of my costume to ensure there was nothing sticking out, the train of my skirt was nicely laid out, in short, that I looked presentable. She worked in the costume industry for some time on film sets and plays, eventually opening a costume store. We’ve been Stitching and Bitching for many a year now, helping each other out with fittings, asking advise and just hanging out having fun.

I’m extremely happy with this shoot, but not as much as I was with the last one. Perhaps it’s because I’ve realized, unless I do the shoot again with hair down and in my under things, or re-do the moon making it out of ridged insulation board, The Anachronist Project is swiftly coming to a close. From here on in I’ll be shooting on location. My much anticipated shoot at Lucy Maud Montgomery’s house I hope, will be the crowning jewel. To prepare, I’ve begun to read volume two of her selected journals. Throughout the summer, I’ll be hitting, picturesque parks, beaches, gardens and wooded trails here in Ontario and home in Cape Breton.

There are a few ideas for what comes next floating about in my head. The main goal of this project is to create a museum-like photography exhibit. I was hoping to get a spot within Gallery 44, the Members Gallery, but sadly that did not come into fruition. It doesn’t do to dwell on rejections, but I can only think, this body of work is not contemporary enough despite the following definition from Foto Relevance: “A relevant definition of the word contemporary is happening in the same period of time, of/or, in the style of present or recent times.” Hmmmmmm……..in the style of present or RECENT times. Since I’m using modern technology, wouldn’t this count as contemporary photography? Like I said it doesn’t do to dwell.

The One with the Plinth

Lately, I’ve been revisiting (ok, binge watching) all the “Friends” episodes and realized none of the episodes had titles. On Netflix however, they’ve title them. For example: “The one Where Phoebe Runs”, or “The one with Ross’s Leather Pants”. So this blog is lovingly titled, “The One With the Plinth”.

The story of how I got the plinth is this… Where I work on Carlaw Ave in Toronto, is a plethora of interesting businesses. One little boutique shop was moving from one hallway to another, selling some of their merchandise and displays. To my joy, there was a waist high, black, plaster column, for $20.00. How could I say, “no” to that? It was weeks later after having it in front of my desk, beside my desk, in the board room, etc., that I finally Ubered it and myself to the studio in Liberty Village.

The photo shoot happened some weeks past now, but for some reason I’m still going over the photos. Oh believe me, I’ve started to edited them. Even printed and framed 2 portraits. I have many successful images from this shoot that mesmerize me. I  going to let modestly hit the fan here and say, I feel this shoot is the best one yet.

Designing this set in particular, was quite fun, especially the task of affixing the ivy and berries to the plinth. In the end I’ve managed to have things look natural. I have to admit buying and collecting these items aren’t remorse purchases as one would think when you make up the excuse, “Yeah, I can use this for my sets!”. They have been used again and again, becoming interracial supplies that make up a repertoire of props and designs. When Nadia exclaimed, “It looks like a painting!” after taking one shot of the background, I knew this shoot would turn out well.

My hairstylist, Kai came to the studio with a more Gibson Girl look in mind. It completely blew me away. She is an amazing person. Having spent the morning with me, she had another job in Mississauga doing make up for a group of acrobats. When I hire her now, there’s no discussion. It’s not necessary. She knows what I want and what will look good. And I know she enjoys the fruits of her labours when I send her photos of the finished product.

For one hopeful reason, I won’t mention because I might jinx it, I’ve started hunting for antique frames. For those who follow me on Instagram, you would have seen them already. The feeling I got when the image was in the frame sent shivers through my whole being. It sounds silly, but there was a visual connection, a remembrance of seeing myself thus. This feeling was completely different from looking at an original photograph of a stranger from that time. I don’t quite understand it myself.

Be sure to check out my third Instagram account, The Anachronist Project. If you’re not already, please follow.

Stay tuned for my next blog, “The one with the Chair”.

 

 

The Anachronist 2

The first studio shoot that started it all is based on Edwardian photo shoots with painted backgrounds. Where in the heck, do you find a painted background that is 10 or more feet long and wide? In the states, though to rent then would be an arm in a leg. To find a way around this, I decided to project an image behind a white fabric where it’s projected through so I wouldn’t be caught in the projectors light.

To begin with I tried a sheer fabric, but the image was not crisp and clear enough. There was too much tanslucance. So I cycled to King Fabrics one day before a test shoot and bought a thin piece of white poly cotton. In my quest for white fabrics, I realized many of them are not a true white. Many have a hue of one colour or another. One fabric jumped out as first being really cheap, then really hideous. All I could think of was all the post editing issues mainly getting rid of a green hue from all the images. Why put yourself in that position to begin with? Ends up, the fabric I bought was not wide enough. Off to Designer Fabrics at Queen and Shaw where they sell double width fabric. Not in the same day of course.

The interesting thing in choosing a background to be projected, is to pay attention to where the light in the image is coming from. I say this, because I chose a picture of a trellis I took on Toronto Island with a wave of foliage draped over it and a spray of roses and peonies at the base. The light that day was coming from the top left, so placing the light and at a particular strength was very interesting. There was much experimenting sometimes as late as 10pm.

Containing the light and blocking out natural light was fun. Each time I came I’d laps into a routine of pulling down the blinds, covering the doors with a black-out material and finally climbing the stairs to wind down the black-out curtain over the garage door. The studio is higher on one end then the other. To block out even more light, I had pieced together rods and light stands, stringing along it a voluminous, black muslin dividing the office and the studio. The light at this point was minimum and working well.

Three test sessions later, the shoot happens. I’ve hired a hairstylist and have an assistant for the first time ever. Alanna is an accomplished hairstylist and has done many photo shoots, but I didn’t explain myself well enough to convey what I actually wanted (which was the Gibson Girl pompadour) and in the end improvised. The result was very elegant and thanks to Alana’s ministering hands, lasted throughout the entire shoot. Thanks Alana.


The second shoot was a little more artistically creative. Maybe even a little more fun. There are many photos from the Edwardian era that could be considered some of the first photo booths that were set up in traveling circuses or fairs. Of these many are individuals, couples, friends or children sitting on a moon. I’m sure the moon was wooden and it was perhaps on a stand with a black background and some sort of seat behind it. Both my moons were made from cardboard, the first one being too small. I also made cardboard primed white, glueing cotton batting to them, making them look fluffy. When I discovered the first moon was too small, I made a much larger one, almost twice the size, but had to make it into three separate pieces, held in place by gaffers tape and three wooden dowels for support. Though the clouds could easily be hung between two light stands on a poll, the moon itself was hung on a large boom that could easily be moved this way or that. A stool was placed behind the moon, the cloud in front and there you were.

Before the shoot happened, I put an ad on Facebook to have people come and have their portraits taken on the moon for free. The. I probably would have been too exhausted after my own shoot to take pictures of other people anyways.

My second hairstylist, Xandra arrived on the scene earlier than I had anticipated. I wasn’t even finished setting up, or getting dressed. I didn’t even steam my clothes. My excuse was that were I gone to a fair, and walking around all day, my clothes would be wrinkly then as well. The day before Xandra came to the shoot, she practiced the style I chose on a mannequin. It was the style I originally wanted. So beautiful graceful and authentic, I felt so much closer to the time and therefore more into the shoot itself. We laughed at the movies filmed for that time, where women would take one pin out of their pompadour and whoosh, it would gracefully fall to their shoulders. Yeah right. When I got home, it was a completely different story. I think I counted close to 20 bobby pins and spent much time in the bathtub with my hair submerged.

As it happened it was the second time I locked myself out of my new apartment. I figure going around Toronto with my hair in an Edwardian couiff is going to be almost a regular thing for me, so I might was well kill time at Tim Hortons and Ceili Cottage for mac and Cheese and beer while I wait for my land lord and get use to it. Not the locking myself out that is.


And the latest, The Swing. I wavered between real and fake fauna to decorate the rope of the swing. I researched online what the cost difference would be. In the end, on a lunch time trip to Value Village I found beautiful paper roses and fake berries for $.99 each (whatever happened to the “cent” sign?). When I was downtown, I went to Michaels and discovered greenery was half price, so I bought two chain linked garlands of Ivy and baby’s breath. Perfect timing and problem solved.

It was absolutely imperative, though I had already did test shots, that I have everything 100% ready before my hairstylist came, so I set up the evening before, decorated the Swing, did a few test shots and felt confident in knowing that this was going to be an easy shoot.

The next day, I waited for my third stylist, Kai. She was freshly home from visiting Russia and had great getting to know you conversations when she finally arrived. Her lateness, I can absolutely relate to having had similar issues only a month or so before. Her Samsung phone was on the fritz and died during the night, so she didn’t wake to her alarm, but to her cat. She called and apologized profusely, and though I tend to be not he forgiving side, I knew she was 100% genuine.

In my wait for her, I took some photos of myself with my hair down, a more natural look and feel, and in some cases I seem more at ease than with my hair up. Perhaps because one then feels more prim and proper. More lady like. Try as I might, I could not look or feel as relaxed as I did before when I curled myself up on then swing with an original book of poetry by Robert Service, “Songs of Sourdough”. I also had with me my stereoscope and steroviews. I love these, but the shirtwaist I’m wearing was becoming more and more damaged as the day when on. There’s no way to hide my bear elbow, not even by Photoshop. Though if you have any suggestions, please don’t hesitate to let me know.

Kai is into all the things I’m into. She’s taking an adult point ballet class, horseback riding in Caledon, waltzing, Lindy Hopping and Charlsting with the best of them. Even in Russia. She loves vintage and was very excited to do my hair, though I admit I was doubtful at first because her Model Mayhem profile didn’t advertise this side of her profession. When she was done, we exchanged contact info and hopefully I’ll have her again for my next shoot. Whenever that may be.


And what’s next? Hopefully a few more studio shoots. I recently bought a Greecian column that was generally seen in Edwardian portraits with ferns upon them and women leaning on or beside them. By chance, a store in the building where I work was having a moving sale. I bought it and bolt a pinstripe fabric that may work for period clothing. Needless to say the column portraits will be next and then hopefully I can find the same good luck in finding a chair or settee to borrow.