Revelation Of The Hidden; The Photography Of Greg Gorman Page 2
Collaborators In The Production
Gorman and Carr have worked together for nearly 30 years as photographer and retoucher. The relationship is firmly rooted in the days of film, where retouching was accomplished with sable brushes, bleaches and dyes, razors, and plastic frisket. It only takes a few minutes in talking to both men to understand how the partnership has not only survived, but thrived over the period of dramatic change from film to digital.
In essence, the strength of the relationship is based on the fact that they are both working toward a common goal, that is, the creation of images that reveal something more fundamental than the simple documentation of the subject. They have developed an instinctual understanding of how to build imagery and each man regularly echoes the other's concerns regarding the direction of production. In this regard, Carr sees his role in the process as providing a cohesiveness to the visual elements within the image frame, offering occasional reminders to Gorman as to the limits of the retouching process. The aim is to retain a visual integrity that remains honest and unspoiled.
"Retouching is an effort to extend, through artwork that is inherently
invisible, the spirit of the photograph as determined by the photographer. An
astute retoucher will identify that thread and carry it to its ultimate nuance...silently."
He underscores Gorman's creative control throughout and adds that when
the completed file is returned, Gorman provides his finishing hallmark--a
final "tweaking" that can only be defined as "Pure Gorman."
They both agree that the process of simplification begins before the shoot and is carried through the retouching process: "At its most responsible and accomplished level," Carr indicates, "retouching portraiture is not about making the subject better looking, younger, or thinner, but about reducing the distractions and distortions that become apparent when reducing the three-dimensional world to two." Gorman reiterates that "when the distractions are diminished, what seems to emerge is a window into the person's soulfulness."
There are many unfortunate photographic examples in today's imagery where photographers overdo the software side of things. This often leads to less sensitivity to their subjects, or a lack of clarity about their ultimate aim, all of which can result in images that are less effective. Thankfully for us, we have exemplars in the Gorman/Carr partnership that helps define a path to revealing the beauty of subjects without obscuring their individuality. Long may the partnership last!
Greg Gorman's Top Tip For Shutterbug Readers:
"It is important to develop and showcase your own style. Channel your work into a personal vision. Set yourself personal projects and refine the style that you use to complete them."
Robb Carr's Top Tip For Shutterbug Readers:
Don't be heavy-handed! Robb Carr asks himself incessantly, "How softly can I speak and still make a difference?" He explains that retouching must not only be invisible in technique, but invisible in style, too, and adds that just because an alteration is executed in a technically perfect manner doesn't ensure that the image is improved. He holds that anytime an alteration does result in an improvement, that another aspect of the image is simultaneously "unimproved." He stresses the importance of not falling in love with one's work to the extent that it obscures one's ability to discern these other changes.
Embracing The Pixel
Greg Gorman freely admits that it was a long transition for him from film to digital. He waited for the point at which he was assured that the quality of the digital capture and processing matched what he was achieving with medium format film. Once the switch was made he found that he was drawn more fully into the post-capture production process than he had been when film was king. He feels that the immediacy and power of working digitally means that he can work both more efficiently and creatively than before.
See more of Greg Gorman's work at: www.gormanphotography.com.