I was asked to provide images for an article in Vintage Life Magazine to be published in February 2016. The article was to feature a woman who is writing a love letter to her husband who has gone to fight in the war. The images needed to be produced in black and white to be appropriate to the period.
I was pleased to be able to work with my good friend, Laura, a model that I have worked with previously on various vintage projects. Not only does Laura have a very authentic vintage look, she also shares my passion for the era. Laura and I discussed the concept and we started to gather various props including an actual picture of Laura's grandparents on their wedding day, and to scout out locations.
For the location we were initially going to use a coffee bar in Manchester city centre, but plans changed at the last moment when we went to pick out some vintage clothes.
We visited The Vintage Emporium in Pear Mill, Stockport, where several of the traders had previously offered to loan me clothes for any shoots I did. Paula, from Mint Vintage immediately rose to the challenge and in next to no time had found us a coat, hat, handbag and gloves, all of which were period authentic.
Whilst at the mill we spotted the recently opened cafe and identified it as the perfect location for the shoot. We asked if we could stage the shoot there and were pleased to have permission granted.
Scrim & ReflectorLaura on set with the scrim and reflector in place. (© Rebecca Mortimer) Although it would have been easier to set up some studio lights to take full control of the lighting, I wanted to use only the ambient light to give the final image a more authentic look (they wouldn't have had sophisticated lighting set-ups in the 1940s). This did cause one or two issues. There was a lot of light available in the cafe area, which is generally good thing, but as we were shooting this in December the sun was very low in the sky and the light streaming in from the mill windows was too harsh. If we positioned Laura towards the window the sun was so bright that Laura couldn't even open her eyes. If we positioned Laura with her back to the window she was beautifully backlit but her face was in dark shadow. This called for a little creative thinking.
To reduce the harshness of the direct light I placed a large diffuser (or a 'scrim') behind Laura, between her and the window. This softened the light considerably but still gave Laura a beautiful rim-light effect from behind. To get some additional light on Laura's face I positioned a white reflector opposite her and bounced some of the diffused light back towards her. It worked. The end result is a set of beautifully lit images without a single flash head being used.
The planning, the location scouting and the lighting set-up all paid off. We moved outside for the final shots as we felt that the story should finish with the letter being posted. We found some great vintage-looking locations around Stockport town centre. We used an alleyway with an old fashioned street lamp, a hilly street with a genuine period advert painted on the wall, and finally a wall-mounted postbox. We ended up with a set of images that we are delighted with. The high-contrast, black and white processing leaves the images looking very period authentic and we feel that the whole shoot was a great success.
If you'd like to see the final images from the shoot, CLICK HERE
Photographer, Rebecca Mortimer, was kind enough to photograph the shoot in progress. Here are some of the behind the scenes images showing the events that took place.
Like many shoots this was a team effort. Therefore thanks and acknowledgements are due to:
Haili Hughes - Columnist for Vintage Life Magazine
Laura Norrey - Awesome vintage model. Follow her on Twitter
Rebecca Mortimer - for providing all the behind the scenes images. Also a talented MUA - check her out on Instagram
The Vintage Emporium - for supplying Laura's clothes and providing the cafe location for the shoot. Check out their facebook page here
Terry McNamara is a Manchester based freelance commercial photographer. Here you can keep up to date with the projects Terry is working on and whatever he may be currently thinking about.