Fill of Love
February 9, 2010 2:06 PM   Subscribe

Fill of Love
Just in time for Valentine's Day, Fill of Love is a photo series exploring the beauty and potency of aphrodisiacs. With many thanks and much credit to Metafilter.

Here is the general timeline along with sources of inspiration for the project.

This post on Mathieu Young's 'Harvest Project' got me thinking about photoessays. The shot of the sandwich on the table was so subversive because it just looked so normal.

My wife is a photographer and I work with food stylists, and they all normally do commercial work. While it is mostly rewarding, you always need to take on personal projects to keep perspective.

So my first thought was to photograph medicinal marijuana recipes. The rationale was that it would be interesting and garner attention outside our normal (and small) sphere of food photography. Here is the AskMe question that I posted, and the answer from bradbane was reassuring. Thank you Brad - and check his site while you're at it. A lot of what we normally do is tame enough to put into magazines, so we wanted something a little dangerous. No risk, no reward.

Fast forward through production, research, and planning. For a variety of reasons, not the least that several unnamed people were sketched out by the illegal element, we hit a wall. One day we'll shoot it, but the conditions will have to be right. During a long car ride before Christmas we were talking about other ideas and God bless her, my wife said 'aphrodisiacs.' Genius. With the kids asleep in the back seat we brainstormed for several hours. I love that fresh feeling of inspiration where anything seems possible, and all ideas need to be explored.

That conversation led to this AskMe on bizarre aphrodisiacs because hey, we did NOT want to to end up like this. With any project revolving around sex, here is a fine line between subtle and flat out cheesy. Thankfully the shoot was in good, and tasteful, feminine hands.

The answers to my question were superb, and gave us a ton of things to think about. Especially the recommendation from EmpressCallipygos. That book is amazing! and it was a huge source of inspiration and mood, so huge thank you to her. If you read this EmpressCallipygos, please MeMail me because we want to send you a print! Would not have been possible without you. Skot also had a cool recommendation (not for the squeamish) but we were unable to acquire a live cobra /HAMBURGER

So with all that info we raced to get everything ready to shoot on Jan. 22nd. Lots of logistics and planning, searching for interesting things to shoot, coordinating the studio and artists, planning the site architecture with accompanying store for prints and magazine. I had heard about MagCloud before but this post brought me back to them. Closer and closer to the big day. I didn't sleep at all the night before the shoot, just too much to think about.

In the studio everything went really well and we got a ton of great images. Of course, there was one shot that I wish had gone differently. The model was holding a glassful of absinthe, and I was sitting to the side checking email. I got wrapped up in this thread and by the time I pulled myself away from laughing, the team had finished the shot. Except that she had too much absinthe in her glass. It was this antique glass that we borrowed from a shop in New Orleans, and even had a line to where you're supposed to fill it before dripping water over the sugar cube. Distracted by Metafilter. What's new. We did get this awesome shot, which made everything better.

2 weeks of post production and uploading and everything was almost done. It was a race to finish before Valentine's Day because we needed to get it out to clients beforehand. But I still had not figured out how to offer prints to anyone interested. Sunday morning pwally posted this recommendation, which I had not heard about, and within an hour it was all set up. Whew!

Quick aside: my favorite thing about Metafilter is the sense of trust that exists between users and their recommendations. It almost always comes out of direct experience, and you can tell. That makes all the difference.

So there it is, how this thing came together from start to finish, funny how much work goes into 16 pages of photographs. But I love what was done and none of it would have been possible without the contributions of people here. THANK YOU.

PS: I hope this doesn't come across in the wrong way, I wanted to give credit to the posts and comments that sparked my imagination. Everyday there are always little sparks flying, but it is rare that something coalesces into a real piece of art, and I wanted to share just how it came together.
posted by infinitefloatingbrains (6 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

I'd love to hear how the lighting was done, strobist style. I love the dark raw look of those images.

(and the melon in the lap photo made me bust out laughing, sorry!)
posted by mathowie at 2:08 PM on February 9, 2010

Thanks Matt! I'm going to have Anna answer lighting questions when I see her later.

The melon shot - yeah, it's a fine line... the captions take it further but they're a little bit hidden in the bottom navigation bar. I wanted to get a shot of her taking a bite but that would definitely have crossed the line.
posted by infinitefloatingbrains at 2:16 PM on February 9, 2010

NY Times just published a story on aphrodisiacs this morning.
posted by infinitefloatingbrains at 6:05 AM on February 10, 2010

The melon in the lap photo was my favorite. I also really liked the juxtaposition of the photo of the model with her hands tied behind her back. All in all, beautiful work.
posted by emilyd22222 at 8:53 PM on February 10, 2010

Thanks for the elaborate follow up, I've been curious about this since your aphrodisiacs question. My favorite thing is how you illustrated the effect of chocolate and saffron with their absence (licked-clean plate specifically). Very visceral, hope you can add more to this series!
posted by Juicy Avenger at 10:24 PM on February 10, 2010

For the lighting, here is how Anna shot it:

Canon 5D MarkII (funny that a year ago the equipment company was begging us to lease an P45+ back for tens of thousands of dollars - a real deal! - and the last thing we wanted was to get locked into an expensive lease. With the 5D you can shoot pretty much anything, for 10x less. It isn't about the camera, it's about the light). She alternated between 24-70mm lens and the 90mm tilt-shift.

All the still life was natural light, more northern exposure, any minor adjustments to the light were just made using a black card to take away.

For the model shots, she got rid of all the natural light and used a single light source, 1 Profoto 2400 strobe head with reflector and spot grid, all shot through a 1-stop 12x12 silk.

The blue background was actually about 8 ft back from the model in order to get that separated effect. 2 painted flats and we got rid of the seam in post.

I think another the reason that the series keeps a consistent tone (besides being lit with that in mind) through both the still life and model shots is that the prop stylist did such a great job of choosing fabrics, props, and colors that all fit the theme. She also pulled the wardrobe, which kept it consistent as well. Basically she went to Barney's and Saks and bought a ton of super-expensive items, then went back after the shoot and returned it for a full refund. This is common practice in the industry, it saves you thousands of dollars in expenses.

Also, I just changed the site so that the image captions are easier to find. It isn't obvious that those are bull testicles on the plate, or that her hands are tied with licorice rope, so it should be a little easier to see now.
posted by infinitefloatingbrains at 7:53 AM on February 11, 2010

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