How Many Models?

January 11th, 2016

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A friend of mine, Dave Swanson, did a blog post a little while back where he expressed an opinion that I disagree with. If you know Dave you’ll know that he is a man of strong opinions. I frequently disagree with him. You might even say that I usually disagree with him. But he is still my friend. I’m not one of those who think friends must always agree with whatever you say. That’s not very interesting and it is good to have your opinions challenged. Dave is very good at challenging the opinions of others. But he is also a good guy and a very good photographer.

I usually just let the things Dave says go by without comment. But this time he was talking about photography and specifically about a way of doing photos that was in conflict with some of my work. I thought about sending Dave an email to argue his point, but then thought I’d just do this blog post to express my point of view. I know Dave reads my blog…he’s just about the only person who comments here, in fact, so I’m sure he will see this.

OK…so what Dave Swanson said is that having more than one model in a photograph always results in a worse photo than if you had only one model. I think that’s a fair statement of his position. You can read Dave’s post yourself here if you want see just what he said. His language is a bit more direct than mine. That’s how Dave is.

So, rather than using a lot more words I thought I’d just post some examples of photos where having more than one model makes the photo better. For starters, there’s the photo above. That’s not mine. That’s what has become my favorite photo by Anne Brigman. I saw an original platinum print of it in a show at the Cleveland Museum of Art last month. It’s an amazing photo done more than a century ago. Look close…that’s not a great reproduction, but there are two models in that tree…becoming one with the tree…and it’s a better photo because of there being two models.

Now for a few of my own photos using two models. I have many more successful photos with multiple models, but for this post I’ve limited myself to only photos that I think are much better because there is more than one model used.

These two photos were taken in 2002 on a shoot in Maine that marks the start of my work with the figure in nature. This shoot was a turning point in my life as a photographer and set in motion pretty much everything I’ve done in the years since then. I was very fortunate to be working with two wonderful models that day, Hope and Rachel. And the two of them worked very well together.

DSCN1726 400x300 How Many Models?

DSCN1580 400x300 How Many Models?

A year later I went back to Maine and worked with Hope and Rachel again. I did this photo for my series of Eve photos:

DSC 8596 400x266 How Many Models?

And here are a few more “figure in nature” photos from over the years where two models make the photo better:

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D70 5392 400x227 How Many Models?

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D20 6057 1 400x444 How Many Models?

This one is a successful photo ONLY because there are two models:

D70 4283 400x253 How Many Models?

This is a little different sort of photo, but it’s the three models in it that make it fun:

D20 1509 400x732 How Many Models?

And there are times in the studio when more than one model works to make a good photo. Now I know that Dave Swanson often uses himself with another model in some photos, so I wonder if he was taking that into account when he wrote what he wrote on his blog. Maybe he only meant it for photos done in nature…but then again, he as gotten himself into some of those photos too. Nevertheless, here are some studio shots of mine with more than one model:

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D20 7676 400x612 How Many Models?

And, finally, my all-time favorite photo with more than one model. There are actually only two models in this photo of Carhenge, but I did multiple exposures in order to get what I was after with this photo (you may want to click on it to enlarge it to get the full effect):

Third Edit Flattened 400x119 How Many Models?

As I said, I have many times this many photos with multiple models, but these are the ones that would not work if there were only one model. Just my two cents.


Angie, Anne Brigman, Artistic Physique, BlueRiverDream, Brooke Lynne, Carhenge, figure in nature, Fitness 101, Gaea, Kat, nude, rant | Comments | Trackback

7 Responses to “How Many Models?”

  1. 1Dave Rudin
    January 11th, 2016 @ 1:58 pm

    Joyce Tenneson once said in a workshop that the more models that you have, the more difficult it is to make a good photograph – but that does not mean that it cannot be done, or that fewer models (or only one) make for a better photograph. All of your photos here work well, though now that I look at it, I think that the photo of Rachel and Hope doing the back bends might work better without the model in the back. (My opinion, of course.)

  2. 2Dave Swanson
    January 11th, 2016 @ 2:10 pm

    Oh, I have got to respond…
    Photo #1 No comment as I can not see it clearly.
    #2 I do believe it would have been much better without the foreground model.
    #3 Same
    #4 I’m okay with it except for the gal starring at me.
    #5 Indifferent
    #6 Better without Kat. Not a comment about her skill, just her being in there mucks up the image for me when my attention is on Brooke’s pose dominating the landscape.
    #7 Works for reasons of balance in a symmetrical image.
    #8 Background model needs to go.
    #9 Indifferent
    #10 Never understood three women in an intimate setting. One should go.
    #11 Works. Figure study is another ball game.
    #12 Same
    #13 Same
    #14 Works because it is all the same model.
    I know you do not agree with me often, yet I consider you a great friend. It is okay that we do not often agree. Life would be very boring if we all thought the same way.
    I am also aware that I gave a counter opinion on some of your best known images, which goes to show that I rarely am in sync with how the majority of people see things.
    One could argue that our nudes in nature constitute “figure study work”. But I would disagree with that as well.
    We are who we are, and that is a good thing.

  3. 3dave
    January 11th, 2016 @ 5:19 pm

    I have frames from this shoot with just one model. I don’t think they work nearly as well as this one with both Rachel and Hope.

  4. 4dave
    January 11th, 2016 @ 5:24 pm

    The first photo by Anne Brigman is done in the pictoralist style of her time. I’ve seen the original print. It isn’t much clearer than this. But, trust me, there are two models in there blending in to the tree trunk.

    Re: #14…there are two different models in this one…Kat and Brooke.

    If we agreed on everything there would be no reason for both of us to keep shooting photos.

  5. 5Dave Swanson
    January 12th, 2016 @ 11:23 am

    See! Rudin wants the model in the background gone. I want the model in the foreground gone.
    I think that is three different opinions from three people on the same image.
    Yes, it would be terrible if we all thought the same way.
    Leaving on my road trip tomorrow. Talk to you in about three weeks.

  6. 6Mirar
    January 14th, 2016 @ 3:27 pm

    “Never” is way too strong. It’s not hard to find photos where more models made the photo better.

  7. 7Craig Colvin
    February 7th, 2016 @ 5:19 pm

    Dave is wrong on this one, but there is some basis for it. If you just randomly place multiple models in a scene as many people do then yes, it detracts from the photo. However if the models are interacting it makes for a stronger image. There has to be some connection there between the models.

    Some shots require multiple models, Dave seems to have backtracked a little and said that it is OK for figure studies, which I would agree.

    Here are some examples of what I am taking about.

    And here are shots where multiple models are the point of it all.

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Photos and comments by Dave Levingston. This is the place to see my most recent work which may include nudes, dance, landscape, nature and whatever other kinds of photos I feel like taking.

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