Life is full of opportunities to make a difference, but it’s often a challenge to creatively put your specific talents to use for the benefit of others. Over the past few years, I’ve had the desire to use my photography as a specific tool to help people in need. However, it took some time to develop an idea that seemed achievable and practical. At the beginning of 2013, I began a year-long project that would benefit a cause I’m extremely passionate about: helping foster children feel loved and accepted. My team and I achieved this by using art to raise funds and send foster children to their own action-packed camp.
Throughout the project, I created more than 20 images to tell the stories of foster kids I’ve met and people I know who have survived the system. Being adopted, some of my own experiences and emotions were woven into the creation process. Today, I want to focus on how I created a particular set of photographs titled “Shattered Image of the Past.”
As I developed ideas for this project, the most important component was including a strong emotion or story in each photograph. For this particular photo shoot, the focus was on a darker emotion that foster children experience, of brokenness and confusion. When I conceptualized this idea, I spent some time focusing on how I feel personally when I’m confused or feeling broken over an issue; I kept seeing refractions and pieces of situations floating all around me, which led to the idea of having mirrors floating around the subject in this photo shoot.
Once I had the visual, the focus switched to problem-solving how to create a set. I knew the setup was going to be time consuming and that I’d need some sort of dark backdrop, mirrors, lights, strings, and some way of hanging hundreds of mirror pieces. Being a project focused on raising funds for foster kids, the goal was to save money and get as many resources for free as we could. In this case, I was lucky to have friends with all the materials needed. A simple Facebook request and we were granted access to a free studio space, I had a black backdrop, and someone donated some old mirrors they didn’t need. From there I just asked five friends to assist and make the set creation possible.
Enter shoot mode: My team and I took 10 hours to hot-glue shards of mirror to the backdrop in an explosion pattern and hung hundreds of glass pieces from a grated structure throughout a large set space. We were sure to wear goggles and long clothing while breaking up the glass. I used my Canon 5D MK II with a 50mm 1.4 lens; on each side of the set I placed two White Lightning strobes with medium PCB softboxes to get a nice, evenly dramatic side-lit look. For fill, I bounced a third strobe off the white wall in front of the set.
I entered the shoot with a super-shallow centered image in mind, but I used this opportunity with such an elaborate set to shoot additional supporting images as well. As I shot, I played around with holding shards of glass close to the lens and had the model hold some pieces in different shots to get different looks. It was such a fun experience for everyone involved, creating this mini-mirror universe!
The next day, I spent about five hours making the initial edits of all the images I liked best. Some of my images were expanded (also known as the Brenizer Method) by taking multiple images of the scene and piecing them together like a panorama, both horizontally and vertically. After that, I simply had to make adjustments to color and contrast and remove strings that could be seen holding mirrors. I always go back on a second day to review my edits and make any final touchups.
In the end, this image was a huge eye-catcher in our campaign to raise funds for the children, and it’s a piece I’m extremely proud of; I love when I’m able to work with a team and produce something I could never do otherwise.
- Canon 5d mk II
- 50mm 1.4 lens
- 3 White Lightning Strobes
- 2 PCB Soft boxes
Rob Woodcox is a portrait and fine artist hailing from Portland Oregon. To see more of Rob’s work please visit: www.robwoodcox.com. To learn more about the camp Rob’s work went to fund, please visit: http://royalfamilykids.org. To learn more about how you can help foster children, please visit: http://www.adoptuskids.org/for-families/how-to-foster