Exceeding Expectations…

I woke up excited this morning. I have Travis Elliot one of my favorite all time subjects coming into the studio to work on some new images based on the lighting styles of the Italian painter Caravaggio.

When I first met Travis he was very apprehensive about having any kind of photos done. I had begun chatting with him on the Manhunt sight and we spent months just talking. Though Manhunt is a gay cruise site it is still a place to meet interesting people and becomes a social network for a small town like Missoula. I don’t remember why Travis caught my eye, but I remember asking him to send me a couple of snapshots of himself. Travis is a forestry student and loves nature. Eventually Travis sent me this interesting picture of him standing naked at a hot springs in the wilderness. He was very reluctant to expose himself as such and insistent that I delete it from my hard drive once I viewed it, which I did. After a couple of months Travis come to visit me in the studio. We didn’t quite hit it off at first; he still seemed very dubious about the process. I am still not quite sure why he ended up in my studio when I think back. I had some lighting set up from a previous shoot and figured that I should at least work with him a bit, because he may never come back. We ended up shooting for about two hours. Travis had a tendency to live in his head and over analyze most everything. For a photographer that’s difficult to work with because the subject isn’t present and becomes stiff and mechanical. Their expression goes blank as they process through it and the image become empty and vacant. Eventually he began to relax and just settled in and he was so natural. He defiantly did not want to go nude and we worked with his shorts on. I always tell my models to take it where they are most comfortable and work within their comfort zone.

I worked the images up on the computer and began to see this amazing beauty emerge from the imagery, the lighting was fantastic, and the images had such great shape and textures to them that I was jacked for Travis to see them. A couple of days later I had Travis back to look at the images. I could see by his expression that he was a bit confused. He seemed to be having difficulty translating what we had done into these final images. I really couldn’t tell if he liked or hated them and could not read his reaction. In a sense I felt like I had failed because I didn’t capture the nature boy in the style and way he saw himself. He didn’t even want the images and my heart sank. I burned them to a disk and gave him a copy anyway and said maybe someday he would look back and appreciate seeing himself this way.

I began to see Travis on Manhunt and chatted with him some time later. He said he had shown the images around and people thought they were extraordinary. He wanted to go for another shoot, promising to get out of his head and be more relaxed. Since then Travis and I have had many shoots and he has fully exposed himself in the studio. We have always gotten the most remarkable images anywhere we take it. He has since become one of the funniest models to work with. He still wants to get out in nature and create some images in the wilderness and I have great visions for that as well.

But what really excites me about working with Travis today is that we are going to explore the lighting and images of the painter Caravaggio. I have been doing a research project on the painter for some time and have been dabbling in the style, but today I really get to explore it. Tomorrow I will talk about the process of pursuing Caravaggio, which was going to become the subject today, but some insight into my working relationship with Travis seemed more insightful and extends beyond just a mention. I now use the lower image as the avatar that becomes the symbol of my nude imagery. This was a hallmark moment in my work, I had suddenly transcended beyond Travis and myself and elevated my images to a new level of art.