Monday, March 3, 2008
Roderick Angle - Punk Fashion, Vintage Style
Fashion shooter Roderick Angle is unafraid to break the rules. When the assignment calls for it, he can go from the latest digital gear to work with prehistoric Polaroid.
When he was a kid growing up in Kansas, Roderick Angle didn't dream about becoming a big-time fashion photographer in New York City, but it happened anyway. As the drummer in a punk band, he probably dreamed of being a rock star—the only job perhaps cooler than fashion photographer. Either way, he now brings a punk sensibility to editorial and advertising assignments, bucking trends and blazing his own trail. He works without an agent or a rep, he doesn't always feel the need to light, and he just might use an antiquated proofing camera for a big-budget job.
“I actually shot that whole thing on Polaroid,” Angle says of a recent project for Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen's women's wear line, Elizabeth and James, “which is interesting since I'm talking to Digital Photo Pro magazine. I feel like I'm expected to be very high tech, which I am, but with this particular job, I shot the whole thing on Polaroid 669 film using 600SE cameras. It's basically a Polaroid proofing camera—it looks like a big box with a lens on the front.
“The whole concept came from Mary-Kate and Ashley,” he says. “They love Polaroids, and we were having a meeting about the whole concept and what we were going to do. They were pulling out Polaroids that they had shot of each other and shot of their friends, saying how cool is this, we love this look, we love this light. Everybody loves Polaroid light because it's just that flash right above the lens that makes everyone look great. I said let's do it; let's shoot Polaroids for the whole image book.”
So he did. This big-budget fashion campaign was shot punk-rock style, with an old Polaroid proofing camera that looks like a Cold War contraption. But it worked; everything looked great, the clients were happy and the shoot was fun. And as an additional benefit, Angle says, the freedom that this “haphazard” camera brings shows up in the pictures.
“I'm shooting with a 600SE camera,” he says, “with a 75mm lens, which is wide. The normal on that camera is a 120. I wanted this kind of wide effect. It's a rangefinder, so the rangefinder then doesn't even work. You have to get this separate little viewing mechanism that goes on top. You have to cock it each time and you can't really see your framing, and the focus is a big question mark, so there's all these unpredictable factors, which makes for exciting pictures because you can't really control it so well. It's very freeing because there's definitely an element of chance. And that's kind of how I like to shoot anyway; you put yourself in the middle of a situation and start snapping and see what comes up later.”
It's a bit shocking to think of a fashion photographer—particularly one who normally shoots with a Canon EOS-1Ds Mark II or a Mamiya and a Leaf back—actually choosing to shoot a major assignment with a rudimentary mechanical camera. It sounds a little crazy, and maybe it is. Maybe Angle is, but he doesn't seem like it. He seems like a guy who knows the look he wants, knows that this funny-looking camera actually has great optics and can make great pictures, and figures why not go straight to the source. He also seems like a smart businessperson who knows how to protect himself, like maybe shooting some of the gig digitally.
“I actually did,” Angle confesses. “I covered my bases. I've shot Polaroids plenty of times, but I had never really shot it for an actual job, and then I also knew that this was going to turn into an exhibition and I'm shooting these little 669 Polaroids, so I really covered my bases and shot digital, too. I ended up with about 600 pieces of Polaroid film and maybe 1,000 frames of digital. Then I threw it all together and we edited down from that. So it ended up that some of the digital did get chosen, and then we retouched it to make it look like it was shot on Polaroid. We got it down to two or three hours each, but it's a decent amount of work.”