DPP Home Profiles Douglas Kirkland: Master Of The Parka

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Douglas Kirkland: Master Of The Parka

Connect world-renowned photographer Douglas Kirkland with an iconic, 180-year clothing brand famous for both style and substance, mix in 18 arts, film and music legends, and you get a collection of images that reveals the diverse facets of each

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Erika Lemay composited with an image of the Milky Way that Kirkland made in Chile.
With free rein, Kirkland photo-graphed Lemay upside down in the traditional portrait, and he composited the digital image. The end results, much like the techniques used, are utterly different.

"I have a picture that I did years ago of the Milky Way when I was doing astronomy work in Chile," Kirkland says, "and I took that and put Erika essentially flying through the stars with the jacket chasing her like a satellite. They gave me carte blanche to do anything I wanted. How often does this happen?"

Kirkland didn't always use digital compositing to create the color images, though the technique did come in handy a few times. He employed multiple exposures with the acrobatic Lemay, as well as when he photographed the music group Maxim Ludwig & The Santa Fe Seven.

"On that one," Kirkland explains, "it's a very traditional image of the group done with the 8x10. Then you go back to them on the Strip where they play often at The Roxy, and I did some compositing there. I was going to take them out on the Strip without compositing, and I found that it was nearly impossible because of police regulations. It would have cost a fortune; it would have stopped traffic. I photographed them knowing I would put them in this; I went over to the Strip on three or four busy evenings just to get a feel for it before I photographed them. That's their favorite place, so that's why it went there."

The high energy in this image contrasts decidedly with the subdued, timeless quality of the group's black-and-white portrait. This is the subtle message Kirkland was hoping to send throughout the project. No matter how trends change, the parka itself—much like a classic portrait—always remains in style.

Gabriel Garko Lauren Greenfield

Kirkland used a multitude of techniques in the making of the images, although the lighting approach always remained minimal. With the Deardorff and Kodak TRI-X sheet film, Kirkland relied on soft, ambient light to evoke the timeless feel of 19th-century portraits, though he did employ a decidedly 21st-century accessory.

"I have a Litepanels LED light," says Kirkland. "I love it. I just dial in a slight fill. That's the only thing I do on those shots. If I can keep it simple, I do. I do the elaborate setups, too, for certain clients, with multiple strobes and everything. Sometimes it's overkill and sometimes it's to please a client and make them feel comfortable. But I always start simple and build from that. Don't bring in too much."

Though working with the 8x10 camera allows less room for spontaneity, the DSLR and a handheld flash are built for improvisation. That's what Kirkland employed when he photographed Dominik García-Lorido, and it again translates directly into the image content.


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