Tuesday, July 7, 2015

A Step Ahead: Mr. Herzog by Gordon Nebeker

'Out of all my shoots, Gordon has been the photographer that I have most enjoyed working with. He is so professional about everything and we both knew exactly what needed to happen. It was funny, during our first shoot, he was shocked at how fast I was getting back into shooting and how I was a step ahead of him the entire time. It was a lot of fun.'

I think pretty much every model I have interviewed about working with photographer Gordon Nebeker has had wonderful things to say. Gordon not only produces extraordinary imagery, he is also generally regarded as an extraordinary and kind human being. That certainly has been my experience working with him on pieces for the site. That isn't to say however, that working with Gordon as a model is always easy. Although lounging naked on his coffee table might be pleasant enough work on a nice afternoon... jumping in and out of swimming pools, and dealing with a large, and often uncooperative, piece of cloth is not without it's challenges.

For 27 year old Mr. Herzog, even with those challenges, working with Gordon was a piece of cake compared to some of the other jobs he's held. Mr. Herzog, Tom, started modeling in his early 20's after being told by a friend that it was something they thought he would be good at. 'I was like, what the heck.. why not!' Tom took the usual first steps, starting a Model Mayhem account and connecting with photographers on-line. At the same time, feeling that he needed to make some changes in his life, Tom joined the military. Tom decided to put his modeling on hold, worried that it could possibly effect his job with the Marine Corps.

Mr. Herzog took three trips oversea's with deployments to Iraq, Afghanistan, and Libya. While serving, Tom says that his modeling didn't so much directly affect his work, but.... it also didn't exactly go completely unnoticed. A couple of his buddies found some of his modeling pictures on-line and a corpsman in his unit ensured one of his sexier shots found it's way into his battalion. Needless to say, jokes and cracks were made. Tom took the ribbing in in stride, seeing the humor in it, especially now as he looks back. Although there are things about his time in the military Tom misses, he eventually left, got married and had a little girl who has became what Tom describes as his world.

Once out of the service, Tom created a new ModelMayhem account to find some work and support his family as he transitioned back into civilian life. It was soon after starting that new MM page that he connected with Gordon. Although he wasn't out of the modeling world for that long, Tom certainly noticed a few changes after he returned to shooting. Tom was initially a little surprised with how often he is now asked to get naked. On the plus side, I also noticed that being naked is much easier than it was back in the day when I first started.'

I think I have found the perfect objet d’art for the coffee table.

That MM connection occurred this past April. Gordon was on his way back to Boston from Florida and they arranged to stop and do a shoot on the way. Gordon recalls Tom as being polite and professional from the very beginning and that if he said he was going to do something, he did it! 'I later learned that our appointment (arranged in advance) came at a time that was hugely inconvenient for him but he didn't let it affect his commitment to the shoot nor his work which impressed me a lot. I think many other models would have bailed out but not Tom! Our first shoot was in rather cramped quarters with only the use of natural light but we made the best of it and, wearing a blue T-shirt I had brought, his bright blue eyes fairly glowed in the light.'

I definitely wanted to do a second shoot in more ideal circumstances. As luck would have it, Tom had agreed to do a shoot with another photographer in Maine about two weeks later so I set it up for him to stop in Boston on the way back home to do a second shoot. Tom ended up staying with us for a couple of days so we could shoot in a more relaxed situation and it gave me the chance to get to know him better. Sounds trite but he is a nice guy. Easy to get along with, not demanding, great sense of fun and unfailingly polite. I took a bunch of snapshots of Tom during the time he was with us and I found it charming that he seemed more self conscious about those than anything in our formal shoots. Would I work with Tom again?? Yes, in a heartbeat!'

If you have checked out my other pieces featuring Gordon's work, you will know that he has been using the long white fabric for a while now. Gordon started using it about four years ago mostly in studio work and quickly discovered that the models usually enjoyed using it as a prop. 'For the models who are new to full nude work, it gives them a way of partially covering up and controlling the amount of exposure revealed. To me, the cloth gives a sense of movement to the photograph and adds extra geometry which is an important element in my work.'

The cloth quickly became part of Gordon's outdoor work and later, in what Gordon describes as one of those *duh* moments, into the water shoots as well. 'I love what the cloth does underwater! It catches the currents and with little effort on our part, becomes a billowing cloud to swim with, around, into, on top of and underneath. In short, the models interact with it and I try to record the interactions.' Gordon ended up doing an entire book using the them, entitled A Piece of Cloth which is available at his Bookstore on Blurb.

The image above, and the two photos that follow were all taken using one light (in a soft-box). As in many cases, less truly is more!

'It is amazing to me to see all the creative and different ways each model interacts with the cloth. Tom was a natural working with the cloth both on dry land and in the water. Perhaps my favorite photograph from my entire work with him is the multiple exposure shot which involved his being behind the cloth in one pose and in front of the cloth in another. Recorded by the camera as a single composite image, the photograph is full of movement and life! It looks simple but in fact takes a lot of patience and many iterations to get it right. Tom was a champ through the whole effort and never complained about doing the same thing again and again until we found what we were looking for.'

Although he may not have complained, Tom does acknowledge the white cloth did have it's challenges, especially in the water. Although he loved every minute of it, the cloth, even being sheer, took on bulk and weight once underwater. It took a bit of muscle, and a lot of energy to create the illusion of something so light and weightless, especially while holding his breath the entire time. The challenges only add power and beauty to Gordon's final images. In addition to balance and flow, it is visually breathtaking to see body and cloth connected as they move together, yet at the same time, respond to the shifts of the other, all captured in a brief flash of movement.

'I have been experimenting over the past year or so with multiple exposures done within the camera (no image manipulation in post processing) and this is an example of that. Tom was an enthusiastic participant in my project and patiently repeated the individual poses until we got the composite to my liking.  This is an exercise in MAKING photos rather than just taking them and I am very happy with the results! '

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