Friday, July 16, 2010

diCorcia dissection

Marc Jacobs shot by Philip Lorca-diCorcia for W Magazine:

Someone posted this image in a photograph forum I frequent. At first I just posted, I like it, the lighting is so evocative, and clicked post. But last night I realized that was just a cop out art student level critique, and I should go in and explain a bit more in depth and so I did an actual reading of the photo. I'm going to cross post it here.

The turquoise/orange color contrast has always appealed to me, as it's a contrasting color arrangement that doesn't seem to really work with pigments often, but when done with light it's really contemporary and can have a great affect of "volumizing" because of the contrast. The bathroom and closet are orange, the midground of the guy is turquoise, then the girl (is it even a girl? I can't tell at this resolution. It looks like it should be a girl, but the arm is kind of manly) is orange again. This lends a lot of depth to the image by vibrating between the two colors.

The scene itself, kind of a morning after vibe, in an upscale hotel. You can see suitcases in the closet, and the bed style plus photo over the bed says more hotel than bedroom in a house. You can tell it's upscale by the nice photo and fabric print, but the key clue is the closet that is only lit on the bottom where the coats hang, leaving the top part unlit. This also makes me remember that almost every light source is probably an actual flash, no ambient on a production of this scale, so either diCorcia copied it exactly, or had the foresight to engineer this detail.

Every light source is soft except that hitting the man on the bed corner. The fact it's hard, it's rim, and it's blue, gives him a hard, cold and calculated feel, almost remorseless for whatever debauchery he was up to hours previous. You also have the fact that he's dark on a black background, so he would be lost, but the harsh rim light gives silhouette and the hard long shadows on the bed draw your eye to him. You get two strong focal points, the figure in the bed in the bottom right, and him sitting on the edge in the upper left. There are so many compositional elements adding depth to this image.

The whole thing is luxurious, moody, and hints at an entire story. I love it.


  1. Guess it's one flash and ambient light, no? Flash on marc, that's why it's bluish to the tungsten lights.. I might be wrong. However a fantastic image....

  2. It could be just one flash, but it's possible it's digital medium format which would need a lot of light for such depth of field, needing lots of light. I wouldn't be surprised if the lamps were flash bulbs screwed in with filters, but it could be the actual bulbs.

    It doesn't matter much if it was flash or bulbs, the only thing that changes is how to balance it with camera settings, so I could go either way. I guess I'm 60% thinking all the lights are flashes, and 40% thinking it's one flash and the rest ambient.