The photoshoot behind the new release by Caitlin Horrocks, author of The Vexations and the collection of short stories This is Not Your City.
It's a strange and voyeuristic sensation sometimes, to photograph an artist and to see their work make its winding path through the world. In some cases it feels like you get to tag along. This morning I woke up to Facebook post by Caitlin that read:
In the category of "things I can't believe I get to say," I have a byline in the Wall Street Journal this weekend, talking about some books I loved.'
And so, by extension, in the same category, I can't believe I get to say that the Wall Street Journal based an author portrait of Caitlin on my photograph of her.
Caitlin was my writing professor at Grand Valley State University, where she still teaches, back in the early 2010s. She took my writing seriously and took me seriously and I am forever fortunate to have made a friend along the way. Back then I believe she had already been published in the Paris Review and won a Plimpton Prize for her short story "At the Zoo." I discovered this within the first few weeks of class and promptly ordered a back-issue of the Paris Review in which her story appeared, brought it to the next class, and asked her to sign it for me. She obliged.
It's not that she was a celebrity (how many authors in general are known by a majority of people, right?) or that this sort of thing even interests me. But she was one of the first people I had met who was not far off my age and was accomplishing work I aspired to some day accomplish. And, I had direct access to her as a real life person. For me, that was inspiring, in so many ways that had yet to even be revealed over the years.
This morning, another one of those ways was revealed to me.
Thank you, Caitlin, for allowing me to tag along on your well-earned adventure from the shadows.
When Caitlin and her husband Todd approached me early this year about doing a photo session for their upcoming releases I was giddy. I'd sort of secretly wanted to photograph them for a while at that point anyway and to have them approach me as fans of my own work was truly humbling.
The photographic plan for the shoot was to use my Nikon D810, but I wanted special glass for this occasion, so I rented the Zeiss 85mm f/1.4 Milvus lens.
For the location, my sister-in-law had recently purchased a Heritage Hill home in Grand Rapids, MI that I had already used for a few shoots because of the antique vibe and incredible library.
Also, I had just begun to get into medium-format film photography and had picked up a used Mamiya RZ67 Pro II from a retiring gentleman in the Michigan area on his way to spend a year in Alaska. But I wasn't confident with it as an artistic tool yet, so I needed a more familiar means.
I wanted to achieve a new look for this session. I wanted to capture something with an editorial vibe that could be used to convey a mood consistent with the title of the novel (since I had no other real info on it at that time).
So, I arrived a few hours early to set up and plan my shots. The following photograph was accomplished with the Nikon D810 + Zeiss Milvus 85mm f/1.4 lens in 47 images composited into one.
This approach is known as the Brenizer Method by some and basically involves using a medium telephoto lens, taking a series of images in a grid pattern, and compositing them together in Photoshop to create a wide-angle style image with a unique depth-of-field, familiar to a medium-format look.
To date, it is one of my favorite photographs.
Here are a few more of Caitlin from that session. One more bright, and one more vexed.
Buy Caitlin's work wherever books are sold, but also at these super common places: