Portraits of a Houston makeup artist

Bobby Wells Houston Makeup Artist

Bobby Wells has worked in New York and LA, and now in Houston. He is a skilled makeup artist who knows each of his brushes like I know each of my lenses. His favorites are housed in a leather pouch that doesn’t leave his side. Like a photographer, his job involves putting a subject at ease so they can get the best out of his work.

This was a hybrid portrait session using a digital camera and a medium format film camera. Some of my favorite images were the low-key shots on a black background. They remind me of classic artist portraits from the 60s and 70s.

You can find Bobby’s Instagram feed @bobbywellsmakeup.

Using a stereo film camera for the Villain Collaboration

Omar, who has a line of Villain printed apparel, set up a photographer/model collaboration in Houston to promote his brand. I thought it would be a good opportunity to break out my stereo camera to get some gritty black and white 3D images. The camera takes two pictures at the same time, with the lenses as far apart as human eyes are. When the images are combined in the brain, the give the illusion of depth.

stereo realist model portraits

How to view the images

The simplest way to view the stereo pairs is to go cross-eyed until the two images appear to overlap and a third image seems to exist between them. If you are viewing this on a desktop/laptop, you want the images to be small or viewed with your screen further away from you. If you are on your phone, it should be only a few inches from your eyes for the effect to work. Many people cannot (or will not try to) use this technique. In this case, you can use an set of inexpensive 3d viewers which are easily found on eBay (I recommend these low cost viewers). If you get it to work, let me know about how you did it in the comments below!

stereo realist jumping portrait houston 2
Stereo realist jumping portrait houston 1

The people

We had a great group of people from around Houston who I’d previously only known through Instagram. Photographers: @filnenna @ashtxc @mptheephotographer. Models: @the_villain_lifestyle @kristen_wollenberg @miss_gemini_polefit @jono56_bjj @heyyyyyy_ms_hayes.

stereo realist portraits houston
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The camera

The Stereo Realist is as basic a camera as it gets. It is slow to operate because the shutter needs to be cocked independently of the winder, and the focusing has to be done through a rangefinder which is separate of the framing window. You can read an in-depth description of this camera in this overview Stereo Realist blog post. I left the digital camera at home for this session - I figured that because there were other photographers on this shoot, I could take the risk of shooting only film.

stereo realist film portrait houston
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None more black - The shadows of a Caravaggio painting

The usual vibrant reproduction of "The Calling of St Matthew".

The usual vibrant reproduction of "The Calling of St Matthew".

It is interesting that, if you think about it, a picture doesn't end at its frame. That is why looking at a picture on your computer, and the same picture in a museum can provoke different emotions. Your computer screen is surrounded my what ever is on your wall, but art in a museum is often purposefully lit, with the architecture of the room and surrounding artworks that frame the mind.

Caravaggio was a renaissance painter who used light and shadow as characters in his compositions. His style can be described as chiaroscuro - literally 'clear' and 'dark'. I might have underestimated how dark his pictures can be when seen in their intended setting as opposed to in a book or on a screen.

A simulation of the painting by natural church window light as it looks in Rome.

A simulation of the painting by natural church window light as it looks in Rome.

I recently had the opportunity to see a Caravaggio close-up. 'The calling of St Matthew' is one of three Caravaggios in San Luigi dei Francesi, a church in the center of Rome. An image ripe with metaphor and foreshadowing, the Christ figure points to call a reluctant disciple with a hand that closely resembles the hand of God in Michelangelo's 'creation of Adam' (physically located just across the river in the Vatican). The Caravaggian twist is to place this hand in a dark room with tax collectors in 17th century dress rather than a fantastical scene of clouds and cherubs.

What is interesting is that, though the picture is lit in the church with artificial lights on a coin-operated timer, when the light goes out the painting is only lit by a small window on a nearby wall. In this natural lighting, the painting is so dim, the mid-tones of the painting become part of the deep shadows. All that remains are the brightest parts of the image.

There is significantly more scuro than chiaro in the real world setting. The reproductions in books are trying to preserve the details of the picture at the expense of the shadowy reality of the physical space around the original.

The remaining highlights show the artist's focus in the painting - the had of Jesus, the perceptiveness of the youngest boy to the event, the cross-frame on the window. The bowed head of Matthew is so dark it can barely be seen. The light is not on him yet. Perhaps if the scene was painted a few seconds later...




Engagement pictures of Alex and Julia

Here is a triptych of shots taken for Alex and Julia's engagement inspired by the seated man in David Hockney's "Mr and Mrs Clark and Percy", a double portrait he painted in 1971. 

I was keen to incorporate the beautiful wooden window frames in their Houston bungalow, and so composed the double framing of Julia by the window, and Alex by Julia.

A first look at Biccari

The Road to Biccari

When it comes to travel photography, the first day at a location can be overwhelming. It takes time to dig beneath the postcard pictures and cliches to reveal a unique perspective through the camera. I think the best images come with an extended stay or repeat visits. 

This summer I planned a brief trip to Italy to see the sights of Rome and drive to spend a day in my dad's hometown of Biccari, near the city of Foggia. It is a nested hill-town in Puglia surrounded by open fields and ruins of ancient fortifications. 

Unwisely, due to the time restraints of the trip, my wife and I only spent one day there. It was brief, but we were blessed by a series of wonderful events. I carried some photographs of my dad from when he was a boy to help locate one of the houses he grew up in. In my other had was a Leica M3 loaded with HP5 so I could add new memories to the collection.

Halfway down the first street we explored, we stumbled into what looked like the house in the picture. Formerly a dwelling and blacksmith's shop, the building is now a butcher's run by Onofrio Moccia with his wife.

The Moccias made us feel at home. Onofrio took us under his wing to show us around town and find the locations I had only seen in the photographs I was holding. A war memorial, the cathedral in the center of the town, the convent and cemetery on the hill, the lake in the forest beyond the town.

We met people who knew my dad's family and told stories about my grandparents who I'd never met because they died before I was born. While we had coffee in a shop, every person who dropped in spent time looking at the old images and were able to recall memories of the people and places they saw.

So this brings me back to the photographs I took. Overwhelmed by a new place and the excitement of sharing stories with new people, the new photographs barely scratch the surface of how beautiful the town is, or give a sense of the emotions of the visit. I'm eager to return and soak up the character of Biccari. One day isn't enough, even for a picturesque small town.