48 Hour Photoshoot

Years ago I became acquainted with the work of Mona Kuhn. Her work is stunning, but what I found most interesting was her process. Mona frequently develops friendships with her subjects and photographs them over days, weeks, even months. Making photos in this fashion allows her to capture moments that are more intimate and natural. It’s something I’ve always wanted to try.

A few years ago I began experimenting with my process. I hired the same models regularly to try to facilitate a more comfortable working relationship. I booked longer sessions. I booked sessions on back to back days. Although I had some success I just wasn’t breaking through and getting the natural and unguarded moments I was looking for. The photos, while interesting, still felt a bit staged.

In the summer of 2013 I met and began working with the artist Alexis Kathryn. In addition to being an artist she’s also a model. I asked her if she’d be willing to shoot two full day sessions back to back to try to emulate the work of Mona Kuhn. She agreed.

One of the images from our early attempts in the studio.

One of the images from our early attempts in the studio.

You have to get out of the studio.  This will never work.

On the first day of our shoot we met at the studio and I began to light Alexis on different sets in the studio. After about an hour of shooting Alexis pointed out my issue, “You have to get out of the studio. You’re trying the same thing over and over – this will never work. It’s not organic. Let’s get out of here.”

We hopped in my car, left all of the studio lighting gear behind, and began to look for locations in the city. It was odd for me at first. I’d left all the comforts of control behind. I was now capturing something I couldn’t totally control. And that’s when I realized Alexis was right, this could never work in the studio. The studio isn’t organic, it’s not natural. It’s always a bit guarded.

The images we created on that first day were promising, but they were still not totally organic. Alexis and I talked about the process and together we decided we needed a longer shoot. We decided to leave town and shoot on-location for 48 hours straight.

One of the images from our first day outside the studio.

One of the images from our first day outside the studio.

The rules were simple. I could shoot at any time I wished. Anything. This would give me the freedom to look for and capture “unguarded” moments. I also agreed not to publish any photo without permission from Alexis. This gave her the assurance that she could be natural and not worry that I’d publish something not flattering.

We began to work and soon the camera seemed to fall away. The shooting became part of our day. We weren’t on a photo shoot, we were spending time together and there just happened to be a camera present from time to time.

We shot during the day. We shot late at night. We shot while walking down the street. We shot everything. Eventually the honest moments came. Pure, unposed, natural images. After 48 hours I felt like I’d just finished the first real photo shoot of my life. I believe these are the most honest images I’ve ever made.

  • http://giuliosciorio.com Giulio Sciorio

    Really dig the shots Mark. Love how you just went for it and shot. Honest, beautiful and rule-breaking.

  • Andrea Tani

    OMG Mark… this is an awesome project! These photos are truly and utterly fantastic!
    Now I want to try something like that knowing that I shouldnt because it will be only an imitation… Damn, you’re good!

  • dgd4966 .

    and, as a result, other than a memorable experience, what do you have? Wall photos for the subject? stock photos? a new process for paid gigs? I guess I am asking – now what?

  • Garrick Maguire

    Well done, really. I started this way but being in Italy and having lots of beautiful girls with nice personalities in my social circle, I could spend afternoons in the sunshine learning what you have been describing: without hiring models. Your Alexis was right about the studio but also, and fundamentally the ‘work’ aspect has to fade away. The model needs to trust and like the photographer and in return the photographer needs to inject some degree of love for the whole enterprise. 48 hours is a nice thought. The studio is a light laboratory but outdoors is where the world enters our photographs. If you feel like a look, my stuff is here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/gkroma/sets/72157638590231645/ and http://www.flickr.com/photos/gkroma/sets/72157628100831398/ Keep up the good nice work! Regards, Garrick (Roma) http://www.fotostudiogarrick.com/home.asp

  • Howard

    It seems that you discovered art is life and all your prior attempts a posing your model were a vain attempt to duplicate life but never really achieve that. Congrats on a wonderful outcome. Obviously, it does not hurt to have a beautiful friend as your subject!

  • flynfoto

    I just saw an interview with Joe McNally where he was answering questions posted by online viewers and he hit upon the same theme. That in order to get an honest version of your subject a level of trust must be established between the photographer and your model/subject to get those types of images that are more than just technically correct.

  • Nuno Petinga

    You have here some amazing photos!!!! Congrats!

  • kova

    looks like low grade photography to me, bad use of light , for me the photography lacks creativity

  • Don McPhee

    Kova, you obviously do not understand the concept of this shoot..And your comment is not critical or creative but rude, no etiquette. Nice work Mark! Very organic and natural but still creative!

  • Bridgette Marie

    This makes me happy Mark. I can’t imagine you being able to let go. Kudos for taking on a project that makes you reflect on so much more than settings. Proud of you. Fall in love with it all over again, that’s the idea.

  • Laura

    This is fantastic. Love the concept. What are your goals with photography? Is it fashion? Portraiture? I would love to give this type of project a go. You’ve done really well. :)

  • bob

    honestly I agree with @Kova. I like the concept, but the results don’t speak to me at all… Keep trying Mark

  • Richard Porter

    Nice Idea, I like image 19, natural and sharp :)

  • Tom

    Mona’s style came from Jock Stuges. She was a model/friend of his…

  • Oh Danny Boy

    Love these sets Mark – well done :) and well done Alexis too – great model.
    Incidentially, @Kova – the concept apparently flew over your head.

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