Portrait and Still Life Images for Megami Ceramics

My time spent in Japan has allowed me to meet several interesting people, and one is Gabby Headly. While both of us started our time here teaching English, we both spent time pursuing our dreams and talents; in my case, it was photography, in hers, ceramics. We realised we had somewhat similar backgrounds (we both studied media in university with various disciplines under our belts) and a love of art. That became a common ground for a great friendship. So when Gabby decided to launch her ceramics line, Megami, she contacted me to create the visuals for her website and her debut exhibition. 

The exhibition, titled Setsuna (刹那), was the result of time spent in Japan honing her skill after years of study. This was both in her native country of America at the venerable Howard University and in the small but culturally rich town of Hita in Oita prefecture. 

Her vision for the images was quite clear and could be separated into three parts; minimalist photos of her pieces shot on black, others with her pieces shot on a tatami mat layout, and portraits of her holding the ‘hero’ pieces as well as solo shots. 

After discussing how to bring the ideas to life, we set up a makeshift studio in her apartment to shoot the pieces using a mix and natural light and flash. I did my best to use the lighting to accentuate the shapes and curves of the ceramics to give them as much character as possible. Over a few days, I was able to dial in the lighting and edits and photograph all the items. Then came the tricky parts; the portraits. 

 For the first day of portraits, we travelled to a location in Oita called Sakuradaki and made a 15-minute trek to find an absolutely gorgeous waterfall. After an entire day of rain, the clouds parted just enough for us to get some wonderful light for key images. Being that close to the waterfall also meant that we were constantly being sprayed with a fine mist of water; by the end of the shoot, our clothes clung to us. 

On the second portrait day, we ventured into the middle of a mostly dry riverbed in Hita. With our friend Deidre-Ann working as an assistant, we set up the tatami as a backdrop and she acted as the counterweight. I got as many photos as possible in the waning light. 

Right at the end, I was also able to take a few medium format shots with my Mamiya M645 1000s; and they came out surprisingly great! While I haven’t done official scans yet, here’s a taste of what they look like.

All in all, this was a wonderful project. I had a great time working with Gabby, and I’m happy I could help her showcase her talents! Check out Megami Ceramics and have a look at her work. 

 Special thanks to our friend Deidre-Ann Johnson for being a great assistant and behind-the-scenes photographer! To see full-sized images, check the project gallery here!

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