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Monday, November 26, 2007

Nahoko Spiess - Master Of Ambient Illumination

The former head designer for ELLE Japan, Nahoko Spiess uses the unpredictability of natural light to bring creative unpredictability to her photo shoots

nahoko spiessTo turn her dream of becoming a fashion photographer into reality, Nahoko Spiess left Tokyo and a career as head designer for ELLE Japan to live, study and work in Paris. Like renowned ex-pat photographers Helmut Newton and Peter Lindbergh and multitudes of other past and present creative artists, Spiess found Paris and the French landscape an unending source of visual inspiration. The City of Light also attracts the best clothes designers, models, stylists and hair and makeup artists—vital components for a successful photo shoot.

While Spiess' extensive portfolio shows she's a master of indoor lighting techniques, we focus here on how she uses the magic of the great outdoors, both in and out of her adopted city. She finds that while the studio offers total control and therefore lessens the likelihood of “bad surprises,” there are fewer “good surprises either.” This dictates her decision, with client approval, to go outdoors to do a fashion shoot rather than in the studio or another interior location.

There's a very Zen-like quality to the way she approaches a location. Says Spiess, “When I see a special place for the first time, let's say a pond in the woods, I try to remember my first impression. It's the purity of what I capture in my eyes at that moment that I try to reproduce in the photos. Then I dream. Often, I wake up and scream, ‘I need this equipment!' or ‘I want fog; I need dry ice!'”

Spiess talks about the surprises she encounters when working outdoors: “There's magic in the sunlight. Shadows keep moving on the skin of the model and on the clothes; they dance in front of my camera. At the end of the day, there's a magic light that brings warmth to the scenery; a new color on the smile of the girl in front of me that I had not yet seen. It's a unique moment to capture.”


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