INSPIRED WITH HASSELBLAD
It's more important now than ever to keep up our creative spirit. For many of us, our living rooms have become our studios and our typical style of photography is just not possible to do at the moment. Using everyday objects or the people living with them, get inspired by and learn from Hasselblad photographers who are still finding ways to harness their creativity from home. Further explore Hasselblad's community of creatives on Instagram using the hashtag #InspiredWithHasselblad.
DONALD MICHAEL CHAMBERS
Originally from Trinidad and Tobago, British photographer Donald Michael Chambers uses this time of quarantine at his home in Copenhagen for inspirational gains and even started an open WhatsApp group called #IsolateToCreate to gather photographers for creative exchanges. Experimenting with ambient light and gels, Donald turns portraits of his wife into cinematic scenes that he explains can be easily done in anyone's home.
A lot of what I do is trying to mimic the ambient light that I see daily, especially window light. So the way I see it, as we're home, why not explore or reconnect with this amazing source/shaper? And if your light source can’t be moved but your subject can, I find it to be a great way to study light through altering positioning and studying the effects.
You recently started a WhatsApp group to build an open community for photographers called #IsolateToCreate. How has that impacted your creative spirit/ approach?
Being an independent creative comes with inherent challenges. Photographers have to navigate competitive, saturated markets and that environment does not tend to lend itself to a communal approach. When we do reach out, we realise that our experiences, good and bad, are not unique to the individual but are industry wide. I have certainly benefited from those who have been open to sharing their knowledge and experience with others. Michael Heffernan, an advertising and lifestyle photographer, and fellow Hasselblad user Tom Oldham, have been supportive and engaging influences.
This crisis is everywhere and impacting us all. It has a sort of leveling off impact. Through the horrible negatives there's also the chance to reset, reflect and re-engage, so why not do it together? There’s always comfort in numbers and common ground and my hope in establishing this group was for all who wanted that sense of community and support to have easy access to it. And it's been great.
Photographers with varying levels of experience are sharing lighting techniques, influences, and openly discussing ideas for projects. Right now, for example, it's no surprise that a hot topic in the group is how to capture and represent this peculiar time. And the discussion is open. The vibe is engaging as opposed to competitive. Two photographers with the same idea, same subject and same equipment in the same room will not take the exact same photo. We all know that. We all stand to benefit from sharing ideas and feedback. My regular approach revolves heavily on the input and feedback of those I trust. My wife Amber is an architect and is an incredibly creative thinker. I’m constantly bouncing ideas with her and my good friend Stephen Sweeney, an awesome photographer who is part of the WhatsApp group as well. Now, through the group, everyone has access to a much larger sounding board and it’s brilliant.
What are your tips for those who can only photograph in their homes at the moment?
For my commercial work, I tend to rent most of what's required so my stock at home is quite limited. I have one 500w battery powered head and three continuous lights. But therein lies the fun I guess. Use what you have. Don't fight it. Embrace the conditions – be it the lights or non lights that you have, and the space – as the outlines to a shoot challenge. One of my favourite images I've ever taken was the result of capturing what I saw by using and manipulating ambient light only. It was of my wife Amber (as so much of my current portfolio is), taken at our dining table. We were having dinner and I kept noticing how beautiful the light looked on her. We had candle light coming from the table and a low intensity, tungsten, bare bulb that was hanging about a foot above our heads. So I grabbed the camera, with permission of course. I didn’t want to change the mood of what I was seeing but recognised that I wanted a touch more light in the scene. I added two more complimentary sources – another candle placed on a small table between her and the wall and a handheld cigarette lighter in front of her as a catch light. Loved the result.
The regular day-to-day is full of inspiration. I think we just have to be on the lookout. A lot of what I do is trying to mimic the ambient light that I see daily, especially window light. So the way I see it, as we're home, why not explore or reconnect with (depending on what stage you’re at on this photography journey) this amazing source/shaper? And if your light source can’t be moved but your subject can, I find it to be a great way to study light through altering positioning and studying the effects.
What challenge do you give to those also stuck in their homes to keep the creative juices flowing?
Most of the time we’re being lit by different light sources – a person standing at a street corner, for instance, might have her face appear red from the traffic light, her hair a bit orange from the street light above, and her back lit a different tone from the car light off to the side. I take the red, orange and green tones from that environment, as well as the angles the lights are falling from, and recreate the light in an empty studio environment using gels. Then I tend to take liberties with the influence and exaggerate the ambient light I saw. At home, if you wanted to try this and didn’t have gels, you can try bouncing light sources off of hard, coloured surfaces back onto your subject or use opaque objects like coloured plastic bottles to shine light through.
So my task for you would be this: think of the light and the colours you would see in your own day-to-day scenario/environment (when you were out and about). Could be from the last time you went to the cinema, interior of your favourite restaurant, a night time walk, strong sunlight reflecting off the green grass at your feet – any scenario, and recreate that light that you remember from that environment, in your home, against a plain background if possible. You can do this as either a self portrait or a portrait of a member of your household.