Ah, now this image I feel was truly inspired! What is it? Technically it was created as a background only for a watch ad where the theme was “Cubist” and meant to play up the qualities of the watch and it’s calendar features. After days of not having a clue as to how to illustrate a “Cubism” look with a 4x5 camera and analog film (remember this was long before Photoshop was even a gleam in its daddy’s eye), I decided to get a hold of several desktop calendars, the kind with tear-away pages, all different sizes so I could vary the font sizes. Not sure what the final thing would look like, I took various pages/dates and a pair of scissors and arbitrarily cut them into odd shaped pieces, triangles and trapezoid shapes. I then pasted the pieces randomly on a white foam board and overlapping them so no gaps showed. I made sure I used a mix of words and numbers for interesting variety and pay homage to the Cubist work of Picasso and Braque who created the genre.
I photographed the board on an angle and skewed the camera movements to get a varied focus, using Polaroid T-55 film for both the Black & White quality, and the negative reversal of tones. I wanted this background to be as neutral as possible. At this point the image was rather bland and needed something “more” to jazz it up. By way of complete left-field inspiration, and thinking about the qualities of the film I was using, I grabbed some sheets of neutral density gel filters of various densities, (1/4, 1/2, 3/4, Full) and scissored them into tiny triangle and odd shapes. I wanted to add a kind of depth, and variety to what up until then was a rather flat composition. I laid the various pieces of neutral density gels on top of the calendar 📆 board and photographed the whole thing again on Polaroid for the negative.
Now we were getting somewhere! But it still wasn’t interesting enough. I used my regular technique of clearing the Polaroid negative in warm soapy water, and once the negative was clean and dry, and I had some interesting Polaroid edging, I mounted the neg to the black mat board with the 4x5 opening and placed a piece of translucent white plexiglass behind to diffuse the backlight evenly. As cool as this was looking, it still needed more “depth”, more Jazz, so I added the wavy glass behind the plexiglass so the light created the bright highlights and shadows, and the beautiful gradients in the lighting. Remember this was originally created as a thematic background for a product, but I fell in love with this image on its own merits.
This final image of a Polaroid T-55 Black & White negative was re-photographed with the 4x5 camera onto color chrome (positive) film which adds a slight bluish tint to the image, and I feel adds the chef’s kiss to this Cubist homage.