New Studio Work; Plus an Exhibition Celebrating the Johnny Mercer Centennial

Here are two test images from a recent studio set with new models; models both new to modeling and new to my work. It was my hope these sessions would finish my shoot schedule for an upcoming gallery exhibition set for November of this year. Well, the sessions did bring things to a close, but not quite as I expected. It was also these sessions that started my thoughts on how I and other artists face fear and change, inspiring two of this week’s entries in the blog.

The sessions were done with each model independently over one eight hour day; shooting one in the morning and the other in the afternoon. In spite of my feelings, I pushed ahead with projects I knew should end, and in hindsight, this was a good thing. It served to clear my head, pushing the veil aside, allowing me to see that I was no longer adhering to my philosophies of simplicity and of sticking with the basics. But, as is often the case with things that “clear my head”, the process was not without a few painful moments. I was at least aware of my emotions, so I began each session with a very simple set: a plain paper background, single monolight and white umbrella. It was an honest start.

Still, I was frustrated and stressed during the sessions, and worried my feelings and unsettled energies were transferring to the models. The models did wonderfully and were, as it turns out, fine. (One did tell me she sensed some interruptions in my “flow” at times.) The real problems, as they usually are, were with my own attitude and stubbornness.

However, my troubles were not limited to my state of mind, as I somehow managed to change the shutter speed setting on one of my cameras. I had accidentally turned a control dial, something I didn’t catch for several minutes of shooting. Combined with other technical issues, this resulted in the underexposure of many images, some significantly.

All of these were easily avoided mistakes; mistakes that would have been realized much sooner had my mind not been blocked with frustration. It’s worth noting that had these been film sessions, I would have certainly been up the proverbial creek without a paddle, perhaps even a boat. I did shoot a few rolls of film with each model and have had an entirely different set of issues with that. I’ll save that tale for the next post.

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The centennial birthday of singer, songwriter, and arranger Johnny Mercer takes place this year. Savannah is his hometown, and it’s a big event. At Savannah’s The Gallery, where I am an owning partner, we are hosting a show in honor of Mercer and his music. Each artist/partner of The Gallery chose a song title from one of the hundreds written by Mercer and created a work around it.

My piece is a black and white photograph of the Savannah Gryphon, a terracotta fountain statue of the mythical winged lion. The statue was given to the city of Savannah as a gift in 1889, but from whom or in honor of what, I’m not certain. Unfortunately, in September of 2008, it was destroyed when a car driven by a drunk driver went out of control and crashed into it, shattering it into thousands of pieces. A full restoration is now underway.

“Frasier, the Sensuous Lion”, by Bill Ballard

Mercer penned a song titled “Frasier, the Sensuous Lion” and I decided my image of the statue fit perfectly with the title. I put the image in the show, dedicating it to the memory of both Mercer and the gryphon. A percentage of the sale price goes to the Johnny Mercer Statuary fund that is placing a bronze of Mercer in the newly restored Ellis Square in Savannah’s City Market district.

The show will be on the walls until the end of June. I’m pleased to say “Frasier” has sold.

The irony of the situation is that I had decided not to put a piece in the show as I didn’t feel I had anything that fit well with Mercer’s work. But after being barraged by emails and phone calls from my gallery partners, I was persuaded to conceive “Frasier.” And so it goes.

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