Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Melissa Rodwell: Master Of Rock ’N’ Roll Couture

By William Sawalich, Photography By Melissa Rodwell Published in Photographer Profiles
Melissa Rodwell employs a variety of lighting techniques, but in general, she doesn't think of herself as a technical master. She lights intuitively using shapes, forms and shadows. Above: This photo is from Rodwell's Opium Bed shoot. It shows how she uses shadows, negative space and indirect lighting to create mystery.
Melissa Rodwell employs a variety of lighting techniques, but in general, she doesn't think of herself as a technical master. She lights intuitively using shapes, forms and shadows. Above: This photo is from Rodwell's Opium Bed shoot. It shows how she uses shadows, negative space and indirect lighting to create mystery.
"You get to a certain level with photography," adds Rodwell, "and we all pretty much can accomplish a job. If we're assigned a job, we know how to do it. I've always been taught to have a distinct style to stand out, just so that people know you by your style, not be somebody who can shoot lifestyle or bathing suits and then go in and do something gothic and dreamy. My work is a little bit dark and edgy, and I try to stick to that when I shoot editorial. That's like my name card. It's how I want to be presented to the world—also, that kind of shooting makes me the happiest."


Rodwell splits her time between studio and location work. This helps keep her look from stagnating, as she chooses locations, even rental studios, based on the needs of a particular assignment. Rather than rely on the same technical crutches from job to job, she's free to reinvent her approach to creating that signature look with each new assignment. That carries over into technique, as well.

"I don't find myself that much of a technical master or guru," Rodwell says. "I see light intuitively. I've always been extremely sensitive to light since I was very young. I used to think there was something wrong with me because I would see everything through shapes and forms and shadows. I still do. I'm very much in love with light, and how I go in and light things is really intuitive. Sometimes I can't even articulate it."

"I don't particularly like the look of strobes, per se," she adds. "I think you need to manipulate them so they become a little bit prettier and more interesting. I like shadows, I like negative space, I like mystery. And when you overlight things, there's no mystery. I'm also a devoted fan of fashion, of clothing and fashion design, so I pay great attention to the detail of the clothing when I'm shooting, to highlight the clothing and make the clothing stand out and be the star.

When it comes to creating the dramatic and distinct look in her images, Rodwell is quick to credit the team that works along with her: "That's another thing I'll say about shooting fashion. You've got to have a great team; you've got to be working with quality people who know what they're doing—and team players—because one bad apple just pulls down the whole shoot. One diva on set, and that's it. So I have to have a really good team."

"I use a lot of indirect and side-light placement," Rodwell continues. "It's intuitive. For example, the Opium Bed shoot, I shot that with a flashlight. I opened up a door and I blocked a window. I put a big black piece of duvetyne over the window, but then I opened up the front doors and let the light flood in. The other one was too bright, too harsh, too much. The light coming in through the doorway was darker and more controllable. The light on her face, that's a flashlight. And then somebody is cupping part of the flashlight, so it's only a little bit of it. It's not just beaming it right into her face. It could be bounced off a card or bounced off the ceiling, or it could have a hand cupped over it like a mini-cucoloris or a mini-snoot."

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