Cassandra, the Nova Scotia Portfolio (2001)
Released in 2001, Cassandra, the Nova Scotia Portfolio is my second finished body of work, the first being the Alberta Portfolio. The images in this portfolio were drawn from a body of work made over twelve days in July; working with a single model in the landscape I know best – the woods, shores and waters of Nova Scotia. Like the Alberta Portfolio, Cassandra, the Nova Scotia Portfolio is drawn from a completely new body of work, produced over a specific period of time with a single model, this time in my native Nova Scotia.
Cassandra, the Nova Scotia Portfolio is made up of ten 8"x10" hand printed, archival processed and toned, fibre-based prints, each presented in an 11"x14" acid-free mat and enclosed as a group within an archival portfolio box. The Portfolio is sold out . The Portfolio was limited to an edition of 15, plus one model and one artist copy.
This image comes from my first full day working with Cassandra, and was one of only a couple in which we managed to work with water; many times before her arrival in Nova Scotia, Cassandra said she wanted to work with water, but once she was here, the weather conspired against us, proving unusually cool for July. On this day, however, we were fortunate enough to have a shallow, broad river that flowed slowly through sunlight before sweeping into the shade where we were working.
This photo is one of the few successful outdoor images I have ever made with Konica infrared, which is the only infrared film commercially available in North America in 120 format. Most of the images I have made previously have been too contrasty for my tastes, and as such, I have generally relegated this film to studio images, where it excels. With this image, however, the soft light, combined with a severely curtailed development time, yielded a wonderfully rich image.
Much like the image on the fog-shrouded river, this image is included as much for its feel as for the specific image’s strengths or elements. The simple flow of Cassandra’s body from the grasses onto the rock and up to the tree pull the eye into the centre of the image, and help keep what would be an unbalanced image rooted strongly in the circular flow of the eye from the figure, through the foliage and into the sky, before returning to the figure.
The “floating” quality of this image is only reinforced by the brilliant reflections in the water. This image was one of the few of the entire body of work with Cassandra that was anticipated and planned in advance. It also rounded out the colour included in the Portfolio - just as the image in the foundation was strong for the colour, this image, while striking in black and white, has a definite “snap” because of the vibrant colour of the reflections around Cassandra’s body.
More then any other image in the Portfolio, I knew this image was strong when I made it. The final result is everything that I saw on the ground-glass when I composed it: the strong receding lines, the fluid repetition of Cassandra’s limbs, and the soft light. I purposely kept the horizon out of the image, as the day was quite foggy and a bright white sky above the quiet ocean would have been jarring and detracted from the overall composition.
The infrared work with Cassandra was some of the most challenging images I have made with the format in years because of the prevalence of fog and heavily overcast conditions, I was frequently bracketing widely to ensure good exposures (infrared light is not measured by conventional camera meters, and exposure is usually based upon experience and testing).
The wondrous dreaminess of the fog-shrouded woods behind Cassandra is what makes this image for me. The quiet, almost spiritual tone, of the entire image was actually rather unexpected, and is quite different from much of my other imagery; I certainly didn’t expect it to appear so delicate when I created it.
The fog which seemed ever-present throughout the Cassandra portfolio did more then serve to keep Cassandra, Joy and Zoë awake at night (I, having grown up by the ocean, am immune to the continuous drone of the ever-present fog-horns). The light as the fog lifted was delicate and soft, and in the case of this image, gave a rich striation to the horizon, adding an element of linearity to an otherwise chaotic image.
There is a constant struggle with my work in regards to colour. I have a comfort, skill and passion for monochrome imagery that pushes me in that direction, but on those few occasions when I seen an image that really works in colour, it is one that REALLY works and demands to be made that way. With the images I made of Cassandra in an old foundation, the verdant green and subtle tones of the foggy background called for colour.
This image was the last made during the Portfolio project; less then six hours later, Cassandra was on a plane back to Ontario. All through the project I made portraits, with a good number of strong images, but this final portrait, made with the last sheet of 8"x10” film, had all the qualities I was seeking, both in a portrait and in a fitting final image for the Portfolio.