E-Project: Her Morning Video: A Surprise Sensation
April 2, 2010
By Holly Stuart Hughes
Landesman, a photographer known for his dance and theater photos, began working on the project in January 2009 when he was contacted by the directors, who thought his experience documenting choreographed movement and his work on commercials made him well suited to shooting stop motion. Landesman proposed shooting the stills in his studio for maximum control on a minimal budget. The team created a simple bedroom set and got friends to move in a mattress. They created a rig to hang Landesman's Canon 5D over the bed to shoot the stills from above, and then tethered it to a laptop on the floor. Landesman chose to use flicker-free tungsten lighting to keep the lighting consistent in all the frames.
"We did a lot of tests." Landesman says. In shooting stop motion, "You must know in advance how many frames each movement, step or jump will take."
The directors had spent weeks storyboarding the video on the computer using 3-D modeling and an animation program. When it came to the shoot, however, they had their model for only two days. "We knew the video would take more than 2,000 frames. We realized that with 48 hours for shooting we [had] only two minutes for each frame," says the photographer. That meant they had to rush to move the bed sheets that made up the backdrops and rearrange the props between each shot.
The schedule allowed the model, actress Shir Shomron, time get up and stretch "and a small break for sleeping," says Landesman. "After 15 minutes with her leg in one position, she [got] a lot of pain." Luckily Shomron practices yoga, so she could hold a position for five minutes. But given the importance of maintaining continuity, the photographer says, "Every time she got up from the bed, we had to figure out where she was on the bed and then she had to return to the same place."
With the camera mounted near the ceiling, he couldn't climb up to preview each shot through the Canon 5D's optical viewfinder before firing; he could only see an image on the laptop after it was captured. "There was no time to do anything twice. Everything we shot went straight to editing,"
He adds, "It was a very primitive way to do [stop motion.] I later discovered there are some great stop-motion [software] programs."
Working with the Natans to create a sequence of images was dramatically different from Landesman's work capturing a fraction of a second in a dance performance. "All my life I've been working for this one frame, and not thinking about what happened before or after." Landesman observes, "If you took all the frames I've shot in 15 years of working, they don't add up to even a minute." As the animators strived to capture an illusion of fluid movement, however, "They can say, 'This is an amazing frame, but what will be your next frame?' "
Now, however, a new traveling gallery show and Web site celebrates Landesman's individual images. When the video was nominated for a Grammy, Landesman and the directors decided to seek out a gallery that would exhibit prints made from selected stills from the video. Gallery F2 in Santa Monica agreed to mount the show, so Landesman had three weeks to print, frame and ship 22 images. "The artistic idea behind the project was to take the finished creation and break it back into its single pieces," Landesman explains. He says galleries in Israel, China and Brazil have already expressed interest in exhibiting the work, and he hopes to find a venue in New York.
The team behind the video has also created a Web site, www.hmegallery.com, where customers can order any of the 2,096 images, printed at 50 x 70 cm (roughly 12 x 27 inches) for purchase through PayPal. Every image is signed and numbered, and only one print of each still image will be made. Says Landesman, "Once the very last photo is sold, the video will have been broken into its pieces, spread worldwide and hung in 2,096 houses, bedrooms, living rooms and galleries." By the end of February, 1,967 of the prints were left for sale.
"As a photographer," Landesman says, "I aspire to see my image on a wall," but he says the phenomenal popularity of the video on YouTube has been the most thrilling part of making "Her Morning Elegance." He says, "Now millions can see it in a minute. I'm really happy about that." He credits the video's Grammy nomination to its international popularity. "You think you understand the power of the Internet, but it's so big, it's so powerful, it's so amazing for us."