DEAR PROFESSOR - A METAPHORICAL PORTRAIT
Dear Professor is a self-assigned photography work dedicated to my former teacher and friend for life Armando Girotti. It’s been some 25 years since we called each other 'student' and 'professor', and today I have the privilege to call him a friend and enjoy meeting up with him to chat about life.
INSPIRATION AND MEANINGS
Deeply inspired by his endless culture and knowledge, as well as his wisdom and authentic love for life, I invited Armando on set at my studio with the ambitious goal of writing a thank-you letter to him, using my photographic language instead of written words.
I was highly committed to the image I envisioned, when I initially conceived the project. I worked on style and set design, asking to borrow some books from Armando’s personal library. I envisioned Armando completely surrounded by his books, both the ones he had written and the ones connected to his life-long career.
The image I was after was a metaphorical portrait of him immersed in his knowledge. Therefore, I piled up the books almost resembling a cityscape, placing them in a way that suggested the feeling of his continuous work of investigation on human thought.
Personally, I love the use of real elements. The books in this case are a symbolic presence of ideas, implying actions that stack up like extra layers on the final image.
From a photographic point of view, this was the perfect occasion to explore and experiment with something new in the magic world of fine light control made available to my craft by Lighttools.
Still under wraps at the time of the shoot, Ultra Soft Egg Crates are an evolution of traditional Soft Egg Crates, providing an ultra-refined tool in shaping light on the side of occlusion. Made with a very specific gradation of reflective grey material (33% reflective grey), Ultra Soft provides an unprecedented reading of the shadows without compromising on a beautiful occlusion effect.
After some initial lighting tests on technical targets, I felt this project was the perfect occasion to honor the big responsibility I was given by Lighttools as an early tester. I decided it was time to put the Ultra Soft in a real-life situation.
I must say the outcome has been hugely exciting to my eyes, fulfilling my highest expectation.
THE LIGHTING IN DEPTH
For someone like me, who is in love with light occlusion as a creative tool, Ultra Soft allows me to fine calibrate lit areas and push the light-to-dark transitions to a new level of shadows detail.
The light-to-dark transition particularly looks smoother and softer, giving to the fall-off a new and enhanced dimension.
The three light setup is a pretty a common diagram in terms of light directions, with a key light on camera left and two backlights from the sides. Two more lights serve secondary background effects. Moving over and more in-depth about the quality of light, it's really interesting to me how I've been able to achieve a nice subject-to-background ratio right in camera, as well as the desired levels on each part of the image, using the new Lighttools Ultra Soft Egg Crates to effectively drive the light on selected areas.
A little bit uncommon perhaps is my use of a Chimera 30' beauty dish, doubling the 5’ Octaplus in order to add a little bit of punch to the head shot zone. Having the Ultra Soft on my key light, however, has provided a beautiful fall off just around the subject and yet casting enough light on the only white card I used just to fill in a bit on the left side of the face.
Since I wanted to test the effectiveness of the new 33% reflective grey occlusion also in backlighting, the 3’ Chimera Octa (coming from camera right) was also equipped with a 30° Ultra Soft. I must say it turned out to perform great in terms of spill suppression, giving a really soft touch to the left shoulder without being too obvious like a traditional rim light might have been.
I am deeply honored by the opportunity I was given by a leading company like Lighttools to experiment with a new product. I'm really glad to have been able to test such a high-end piece of equipment on a project I was particularly committed to.
My sincere gratitude to my professor in life, and forever admired friend, Armando Girotti for his generous presence on my set. I hope that my photography will last a long time, as old bookmarks do, among the happy pages of our friendship book.