In November I attended an opening reception for Peter Fitzpatrick, a photographer and professor at Columbia College. He exhibited a series of images he created to replicate the British Antarctic Expedition of 1910, led by Captain Robert Falcon Scott.
Captain Scott, and four companions, set out to explore the South Pole and never returned. Professor Fitzpatrick re-created several images taken by Scott. He went to Antarctica to re-create these images.
I was immediately intrigued by the images. The subjects exude adventure, and I thought, “why not re-create the re-creations?” I knew Antarctica was out of the question so I came up with plan B. Find a place with mountains, fly there, shoot some back-plates, fly home, and shoot some subjects in the studio. Easy as 1,2,3. I of course, put my own spin on the shoot, and chose to use African American subjects, who are not often featured as Arctic Explorers.
There is a great article about the first African America to travel to Antarctica, which was coincidentally around the same time period we set the images – the 1940’s. Check out the full article: First Black Man in Antarctica.
Scouting The Mountains
I have a friend in Seattle and figured that would be a good place to start. My friend Michael Doljanin, is an avid mt. climber, slack-liner and all around grizzly outdoorsman. I sent him reference images, and he assured me that Washington would have plenty of mountains to photograph. He also had a week free from work and decided last minute to be my tour guide.
Several adjectives describe the mountains I was looking for: remote, dark, cloudy, rugged and cold. We searched for 3 full days and found nothing. On the ride home I did my best to keep my head up, but quickly felt discouragement and sadness creeping in.
Just before leaving the last range of mountains, we took one last detour to Mt. Index, which we had scouted earlier to no avail. I looked up and I instantly knew I had my back-plates. The sun had set and it was almost dark, but the weather had shifted dramatically and it was perfect.
Creative Collaboration For The Project
First I shot the back-plates. Second; I used those to plan out the look and feel for the rest of the shoot. I began envisioning a group of explorers beaten down but not defeated. I brought in 2 creatives from the start – Hair and makeup artist Cindy Shute, and Photo Retoucher Brian York.
I knew that with the help of these 2 creatives we would have a solid foundation to build on and have a better chance of bringing this concept to life.
I have collaborated previously with both Cindy and Brian, and they both brought so much to the table. Cindy did a lot of research on the affects of cold weather on skin, which resulted in some very realistic looking effects. The end result included fake frost bite, synthetic facial hair, and synthetic snow.
Brian York was on set the day of shooting to help us capture images that would be easier for him to composite. This input also helped me better set up the lighting to match the back-plates I had taken in Washington. After the shoot Brian got to work on the images immediately and put in over 30 hours to composite and fine tune. In the end Brian positioned the back-plates, added falling snow, created more snow, adjusted the color, tone and much more to create these incredible images. His ability to collaborate and contribute to this project was invaluable.
A special thanks to all the following people.
Special Effects, Hair, Makeup: Cindy Shute
Wardrobe: Tatum Yancey
Producer: Grey House Productions / Hannah Fehrman
Production Assistant: Gonzola Guzman
Studio Space: Vivienne Maria