I was recently asked to create an image for a poster about eLearning for Ancient Languages; the subject my mum, Mair, is currently researching for her PhD at the Open University. The image was to be a modern equivalent of the Douris man with wax tablet - an Ancient Greek vase painting of a guy sitting with what looks to be a laptop. The photo would have to be a mirroring of the original, so that the two could be juxtaposed in the final design to look as though they were communicating. I would also have to get the colours matching, and find an equivalence that captured something close enough to the original to be instantly recognisable, and yet have the three-dimensionality and feeling of a modern photographic portrait.
The initial plan was to invert the colours and have a subject show as dark on a bright orange background, in the style of some other vase paintings. This proved to be impractical with the time and equipment available, though it might become a future project. I decided to work on the most important elements of the photo to work for the concept. Jeanelle Archer was the model; one of my friends on the MA performance making at Goldsmiths. We tried a few variations on smart clothes, but the simple black turned out to be most effective. The shoes were originally black too, but the brown were more casual and also tied in to the orange colour scheme nicely. We did the shoot in the New Academic Building at Goldsmiths College, which has some bits of orange and yellow wall. The final lighting setup was a shoot through umbrella slightly above and in front to camera right. The back light is coming from just out of shot left at waist level from 45degrees behind the model, and is flagged off the floor and blocked from the camera lens by my assistant (!). I underexposed the background a couple of stops, which was lit by the flourescents in the building and some sunlight coming in from up camera right. I could have gelled the flashes, but since it was a mix of daylight and flourescent in the background I thought that would just confuse things. The final image is flipped horizontally to fit the poster design. The background was also swapped with a simpler texture cloned from the original vase image. Mair has also blogged about this here.