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FROZEN MOMENTS

By Association Member China Hamilton.

Now I’m one of those dying breed of photographers who once used film in a camera. I think that I have actually been doing it for about fifty years. I don’t do it any more as I have joined the digital club but it started me thinking a while back. It was a long time, about ten years, before I gave up my Kodak Brownie 127. Now that had a fixed shutter speed, quite slow. Then I got a 35mm camera which had a choice of speeds up to about 1000th of a second. Wow. So what has that got to do with erotic photography? Well besides the breasts, bottoms and naughty bits of women, (it’s women for me, as that is my subject) they have faces. Some photographers forget that! Though any picture is a whole body portrait, faces play an immense part in the eroticism of a picture. We communicate with the face and the subject can change the mood and message, indeed every aspect of the picture with their face.

So where does shutter speed come in to all this. Well if we start taking pictures at higher and higher shutter speeds we begin to cut slices of time that show a person in a way that no one ever normally sees or perceives. Our relationship to another person is based upon a considerable number of factors including even their voice. In moving film we can come much closer to the reality of that person, observe them as we might in real life. That’s only partly true, as even motion picture film is making individual pictures at about a 25th of a second each. We call these slices, film stills. A camera, as my first 35mm. camera did, can get things down to much, much smaller slices. At say a 250th to a 500th we are seeing a face as we never, ever will see it in normal life. It’s at that point that strange things start to happen, that we begin to discover a very new person, a person that even close friends don’t recognise. Now that is fascinating.

image by China Hamilton
image by China Hamilton
image by China Hamilton

If a subject sits for a very competent portrait artist, either drawing or painting, the procedure may take place over a number of sittings. What such an artist will achieve will be a composite of that person rather than a snap shot moment. The subject will have arrived in different moods, the perception of the artist will also change, as will lighting and even their relationship. That is why such a portrait seems so often to others, to never be quite the person they know or never be quite a perfect likeness. Yet if we think about it a perfect likeness can never exist for the subject in question is evolving constantly.

If we wish to take a picture that conveys something close to a recognisable portrait of our subject then we must use a very slow shutter speed rather as was dictated to the Victorians with their slow to react emulsions. That though can be quite boring. What is a far better challenge, especially when the true erotic portrait is the aim, is to use strong lighting that will permit a fast shutter. Often I have found we can discover perhaps the hidden essence of the sexually wicked soul that is hidden so often from our eye in normal time. What can be revealed and I have seen it time and time again, is a 500th of a second glimpse into the erotic mind of my subject, something she hides so well.

This phenomena perhaps explains what we have understood, since the arrival of the camera, as to a person being photogenic. The strange, often intangible factor that made it a Hollywood requirement for new talent to have a film test. People who were glamorous in real life died under the camera and the ‘ordinary’ came sometimes to brilliant life? I worked over many years with a beautiful young subject, Emily. Now she, in her normal life was attractive and interesting but when in front of the camera a magic seemed to spring into her face as we together grasped that thin, hidden slice of her persona. See the sample pictures. Such a versatility of persona can mean that one subject will provide many, often quite different people, in the pictures we take of them. Sometimes so different that it is difficult for us to believe that they are the same person?
Emily by China Hamilton
Emily by China Hamilton

As a photographic artist I have come to understand and value the rarity of such a subject or partner in my work. When you find one you are blessed beyond words with a priceless gift that will become the great muse of your creativity. In the last twenty or thirty years I have found three such women. They never stopped rewarding the emotional slices of the fast shutter speed by providing such an endless range of new people, emotions and erotic persona. I attach three further pictures all of the same person to illustrate my point.

As photographers of erotic art, it is an important matter to consider. I have always found that though it is possible to do good work with many of my subjects, the constant searching for those unique glimpses into a woman’s secret places and capturing it, is an eternal challenge. It is perhaps what makes some of the rare pictures we achieve, amongst the many, possess that haunting quality that gets under the skin of both ourselves and the others who see them?

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