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Thread: Robert Mapplethorpe - How Did He Light This?

  1. #1

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    Robert Mapplethorpe - How Did He Light This?

    Hello fellow LF users,

    recently got a bit more invested in Mapplethorpe's work, and I was wondering how he might have lit this portrait of Grace Jones in particular? Curious to hear your guesses (or knowledge) on the positioning and kind of light sources he might have used.

    Click image for larger version. 

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    Thanks for your help!!

  2. #2
    Peter De Smidt's Avatar
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    Re: Robert Mapplethorpe - How Did He Light This?

    Clamshell, with a large rectangular softbox up high as the key, and a reflector (or another light) down low.
    May tomorrow be a better day.

  3. #3
    Resident Heretic Bruce Watson's Avatar
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    Re: Robert Mapplethorpe - How Did He Light This?

    Look at the eyes. Catchlights indicate a straight forward over/under beauty light array. That and a "hair light" almost directly overhead looking straight down to light the hood and the right shoulder. When you've got a beauty like Ms. Jones to work with, what else do you need?

    Bruce Watson

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    Re: Robert Mapplethorpe - How Did He Light This?

    Quote Originally Posted by Peter De Smidt View Post
    Clamshell, with a large rectangular softbox up high as the key, and a reflector (or another light) down low.
    Totally agree. There is nothing mysterious about how this was lit. It is very obvious if you study Grace's eye's. If anything I would say the light sources are a little too obvious in the eye and have given a 'goat's eye' look to the pupil.

  5. #5

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    Re: Robert Mapplethorpe - How Did He Light This?

    When I was teaching a college level Studio Photography course at the Hartford Art School, I used to project images of ads and have the students tell me which kind of lighting was used, most of the time based on the reflections in the eyes. 70% of the time this method worked. 20% of the time the reflections of the lights were removed by Photoshop. 10% of the time one side of the face was reversed and used for the other side of the face. It's was pleasure to show them Mapplethorps honest work with no digital manipulations.

  6. #6

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    Re: Robert Mapplethorpe - How Did He Light This?

    There is a book called Light; Science and Magic by Hunter & fuqua. One of the older editions is quite reasonable. I would suggest you get it and read it; it's the text I used when I taught photographic lighting at the college level many years ago. L

  7. #7

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    Re: Robert Mapplethorpe - How Did He Light This?

    Quote Originally Posted by Luis-F-S View Post
    There is a book called Light; Science and Magic. I would suggest you get it; it's the text I used when I taught photographic lighting many years ago. L
    Used that same textbook in one of my classes... recommend it 100%

  8. #8
    William Whitaker's Avatar
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    Re: Robert Mapplethorpe - How Did He Light This?

    Quote Originally Posted by Peter De Smidt View Post
    Clamshell, with a large rectangular softbox up high as the key, and a reflector (or another light) down low.
    What is a "clamshell"?

  9. #9

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    Re: Robert Mapplethorpe - How Did He Light This?

    @Tobias Key, Mr. Mapplethorpe may very well have chosen the 'goat's eye' look.
    @Will Whitaker, just a descriptive term for a standard lighting technique, like the portrait business' use of the term 'Rembrandt lighting'. (which Rembrandt van Rijn rarely used, btw)

  10. #10
    William Whitaker's Avatar
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    Re: Robert Mapplethorpe - How Did He Light This?

    Mark, after some thought I interpreted it as "sideways butterfly lighting". At least I think I get the idea....
    That Mapplethorpe image is striking, to say the least. And the lighting technique complements the subjects features

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