One of the questions I get a lot is if I know the people in my photos, if I talk to them, if I ask permission or if it is planned or staged phots
The answer in general is that I look for a certain atmosphere and that it usually involves a moment where the light and the people are just right. For me light and people are expressing life and aesthetics.
Hence it some times clicks unexpected in a cafe, on the street, in a store while doing my shopping - or when I do a formal photo shoot. I just know them by heart and can often predict when a moment like the ones I photograph might happen in a moment.
I have an idea of the
atmosphere of the photograph before the photo
Often when I do a formal photo shoot I have an atmosphere in mind rather than an exact setup of light or people. Often I meet people the first time for formal photo shoots and just have an idea what atmosphere the image should or might be communicating, based on the briefing I have about what it is for and what they have been doing that they deserve to be in a magazine.
People don't mind looking good in photos
But as the people in my photos are mostly not arranged or staged formal photo sessions, it's people I see somewhere and simply photograph. Often I see an opportunity might arise and will prepare in a hurry and get it. I almost never ask permission because I want that moment, and often people won't even notice. Some times they do and pretend not to while they play their part, some times we have eye contact after the shot and I simply nod or give sign it was good and walk away.
You can tell if people want to talk more, and then I may go to them and tell what I do. Some times I give them my card and ask them to e-mail me so I can send a copy. But my overall experience is that people really don't mind and even don't care. As very few send an e-mail to get a copy, I've made it a habit to get their contact info so I can send them a copy.
The Dior Lady
The woman in the image is the Danish model Ann we had taken with us to Sicily in May 2011 for the Overgaard Workshop. So in this case I know the person, though it is not a staged photograph.
She had a very nice wardrobe with her and the first evening after my assistant, Ann and I had arrived we went out to have dinner araound and she was waring this outfit. I noticed that when a tall blond woman elegantly dressed walked in the streets of Palermo, the men would stop what they were doing and admire the woman with respect. This made it posible for me to predict the photograph.
The "Repeating Action" in photography
So walking behind Ann and approacing three men by a scooter smoking and talking, I knew what the outcome would be. I call this "repeating action" as you some times miss a shot but can prepare for another similar because it will be a "repeating action". For example, in a cafe with nice light on a table there will be coming and going new people all the time at the table, so you can simply 'set yor stage' and prepare focus and all for the right people sitting there.
Or if it is raining in the street with nice reflections and you miss a couple walking over the street with nice reflections from a taxis front lights, it's a "repeating action" because something similar will happen several times in the next ten minutes. In fact, it will happen again next time it rains in a week or a year.
So never regret being too slow focusing or setting exposure time. You will get another chance, and very often it will surprise you just how well casted the people walking into your frame can be. In any case, I knew this might happen and tried to be prepared.
The actual original frame and the crop used for The Dior Lady.
||Bokeh is how the shape of out-of-focus areas look. The word bokeh comes Japanese.
The first of two photos I took was a well framed one with good focus, the second I was moving the camera because I was walking while I photographed. In editing the photos I thought 'damn, I didn't get it' but then found a way to crop the image so it works well. The first image was better technically; but the second had the right body position and atmosphere. Hence it was that one or nothing.
It's a nice image, but when it gets printed and put on a wall it comes to life and eminates a very special atmosphere. In the Leica Galerie Salzburg we made a 125 x 180 cm print for the top of the stairs.
From outside the gallery you would see The Dior Girl on top of the stairs and through the glass it looks like a very elegant gallery guest walking around. It naturally attracts your interst, and as you want to be part of this scene, you would walk into the gallery.
Also some other qualities than the usual sharpness and micro details come in play when you make a large print. For example the 'bokeh' in the upper left corner is underlining the atmosphre and is a piece of aesthetics in it self.
Buy and own "The Dior Lady"
You can buy "The Dior Lady" as signed original print from my gallery at this page.
A large print of The Dior Lady getting ready to travel to a private colection in Austria. To the left my daughter Robin Isabella, to the right, Lisa Kutzelnig of Leica Galerie Salzburg. You can buy "The Dior Lady" as signed original print from my gallery at this page.
The Dior Lady limited editions
Photo from the opening reception at Leica Galeria Salzburg. By Peter Hellekalek. You can buy "The Dior Lady" as signed original print from my gallery at this page.
Article in Salzburger Nachrichten by Eva Pittertschatscher. Click on the image for a PDF version: