[You can read the rest of this series here.]
As with most of the hygiene themed Rulin’s in this series, my vision for this photo came to me fairly easily. In short, I wanted to make a weird photo of a dude in a bubble bath. Man that sounds strange.
In this case, I put out an informal casting call to my Facebook and Twitter followers and within minutes had a volunteer: my pal Alex from the band Peach. Alex is the type of dude that is up for pretty much anything, so when I explained the idea for this shoot he only asked what kind of beer I would be providing. Knowing his penchant for Coors Light (check out his swim trunks in the shot below) I was happy to oblige. Although when he showed up at my house in south St. Louis wearing a Cubs hat, I threatened to withhold the beer and drown him in the tub. We reached an amiable conclusion to that debate.
Great. I had a subject. But I also needed a tub. As cool as it would have been to photograph Alex in a rusty old tub in the middle of nowhere (that shot is still on my to-do list) we weren’t able to pull together the logistics for that. A lot of the photos in this series started with some pretty grandiose concepts but since I was working strictly with volunteer labor and zero budget many of the ideas had to be pared down to a more realistic scale. As much as I would like to pull off some Gregory Crewdson or David LaChappelle productions it just wasn’t possible for this project.
Luckily, my friend (and very talented photographer) Jon Gayman was willing to help me out by lending us the use of the clawfoot tub in his loft. Jon also pitched in during the shoot, acting as an impromptu assistant/lighting consultant. He does that.
Speaking of lights, this shoot was a challenge in that regard. Since Alex is a tattooed rock-n-roll dude, I knew I wanted a somewhat edgy look. In most cases I would have stuck a pair of gridded flashes on either side of him with a larger, softer light source above him (like a beauty dish). But since we were up against a wall (literally) I wasn’t able to pull that off.
So we went with a single gridded flash placed on a light stand to the left of the camera, angled down at Alex in a way that would rake the light across him and the brick wall. It worked for a main light, but the shot needed a little pop–a little something extra. Since I knew I would be shooting from the end of the tub (to avoid using the beige wall as a background) I decided to stick a flash under the tub to break things up a bit visually. After some adjustments we found a look that worked, and I decided to add one more light to illuminate the rim of the tub. Without it, the near end of the tub just goes dark and fades out of the frame. Here’s what things looked like just prior to shooting.
Somewhere along the line I decided to juice things up a bit lighting-wise by adding some colored gels to the flashes illuminating the tub. I stuck a teal one on the light underneath, and a magenta one on the tub rim light. I figured it made things look a little more “rock-n’roll” and just went with it.
As usual, I shot several different compositions but decided on the final shot because of Alex’s expression. He really meant whatever he was singing to that duck. I think it was a Van Halen tune, actually. By the way, a big thank you to Kelly Gardner for graciously allowing the use of her rubber duckie collection.
Maybe it is the way I was raised, or some egomaniacal pride complex, but I tend to resist asking folks for favors. It’s not that I have any shame about it or anything, it’s just that I don’t want to inconvenience or annoy anyone. So it was with great trepidation that I reached out to Jon about the use of his tub, knowing that we’d basically be invading his home for the night. Granted, I came armed with pizza and alcohol to soothe the annoyance, and Jon was his usually gracious self. And as usual, everyone was totally cool about it. Hell, Alex sat in a room temperature tub all night while I blinded him with flashes and made him sing to a duck. But he seemed to enjoy himself just fine, possibly because of the Silver Bullet tallboys he was sipping.
This entire project has been fueled by others giving their time and sharing their resources, whether they be contacts or bath tubs. And the more I work at being a photographer, the more I realize that most humans are a pretty giving bunch.
That’s so cool.
Some more outtakes from the shoot: