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Matinee: Randal Ford Share This on LinkedIn   Tweet This   Forward This

20 April 2019

Saturday matinees long ago let us escape from the ordinary world to the island of the Swiss Family Robinson or the mutinous decks of the Bounty. Why not, we thought, escape the usual fare here with Saturday matinees of our favorite photography films?

So we're pleased to present the 198th in our series of Saturday matinees today with two videos featuring Randal Ford's portraits of animals.

Ford shot for the student newspaper at Texas A&M before photographing farm life for Dairy Today. He was subsequently hired by Pentagram to shoot portraits of cows. And that "snowballed," as the Austin photographer puts it, into a project shooting wild animals, which eventually became a book titled The Animal Kingdom.

These aren't photos of animals, we hasten to point out, they're portraits of them.

Ford has consciously adapted Richard Avedon's portrait style to his animal photography. The images are shot against a neutral background and straight on, for the most part.

This can be a little tricky when the animal's eyes are on the sides of its head (profiles solve that problem) but it's arresting when they are looking right at you. Particularly if they are beasts of prey.

But Ford sees it more benignly. When we look into the eyes of animals we see a reflection of ourselves, he says.

He writes in his artist's statement:

Over 40,000 years ago, we began to depict animals in cave drawings. Throughout history, mankind's consistent portrayal of animals in art is a testament to the importance of our connection with the animal kingdom.

As mankind evolved, so did our artwork. We began to not only depict, but personify animals. We began to see our human emotions in animals. This anthropomorphism or personification connected us to animals on a deeper and more emotional level.

After the wild animal portraits, he started shooting portraits of dogs, which he describes as "an emotional extensions of ourselves." And we see a quite a few of these portraits in this video.

The video also gives a glimpse of his technique, shooting tethereed, and his image editing routine before printing on Hahnem¨hle paper with Epson UltraChrome inksets and making his gold-stamped certificate of authenticity (well, it's a promotional video, too).

The second video is a behind-the-scenes look at Ford shooting portraits for his book The Animal Kingdom, published by Rizzoli.

It shows a great many more of the 150 species he shot for the book working with the handlers from Hollywood Animals and Cat Haven, among a wide variety of sources including zoos and private animal owners.

We have to confess we were a little worried about the safety of the setup. Until, that is, we noticed the protective electrified fence between the humans working the set and the wild animals. Apparently only the handlers were unprotected.

And every one of these animals has a name, listed in the back of the book and on Ford's Web site. Just click on the portrait to see the animal's name and story.

Ford used Nikon D850 and D810 bodies with Sigma Art lenses and a variety of lighting setups based on the animal's size, as the behind-the-scenes video shows.

We're not sure who did the makeup on the animals but they all look gorgeous. And well fed.


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