Sunday, July 21, 2013


Until 2 weeks ago, I'd only heard of the FX Network's show "American Horror Story." Then I got a phone call and they wanted me to come to New Orleans to shoot a tintype for the show. (They had gotten my name from wet-plate co-conspirator Kevin Kline.)
So we arrive at the Second Line sound stage warehouse complex, a maze of structures, and we find where we're supposed to be, but uncertain where to park and where to unload all my crap. I tell Kevin, "Let's just drive in here until we get kicked out." So we do, and snag a spot right in front of the door.
The crew was working on its first day for the upcoming season, all set in New Orleans. They are building a huge mansion inside one warehouse.
The morning we arrived, the show had just been nominated for 17 Emmy awards.
We watched actress Frances Conroy (from the HBO show Six Feet Under) do a makeup/hair screen test.

We meet the director, Alfonso Gomez-Rejon; second assistant director Christoper d'Angelus, and find that they've set up a special tent for me to process my picture and for them to film the process.

I made several images on red glass, ambrotypes, and a few test shots on aluminum. The light in a skylight kept changing with the sun going in and out of the clouds. Here's Kevin at the makeshift studio we set up.
As the sun would move across the sky, we would move the backdrop so it was just at the edge of the shade. Note the snazzy reflector holder  at left that I bought at B&H a few weeks ago in New York. Also, my camera by Ty Guillory. on the right.
So here's a shot on aluminum of the subject.
Then they wanted to film the process, so I made a couple of images on red glass (ambrotypes). The crew placed a red gel over a hot light to the right of the camera (out of the frame) to film the development step of the process. They also had a white light to shoot when I poured the fixer on the plate. Here, the Director of Photography Michael Goi is about to shoot the fixing. You can see the developed plate on the table.
With the red gel, it was nice and bright inside the tent, but there was just enough white light leaking from the setup to fog my plates. What would have been nice contrasty images turned out to be slightly muddy. But I was able to salvage the images with some a chemical mix called farmer's reducer.
Things got a little dicey at the end. We were running out of time. The show is shot on film, and it has to be flown out for development everyday at 5 pm so the results, the dailies, can be seen in time for the next day's shooting. So I had to make the last shot count. No time for retakes. Then, the sun went behind the clouds and we had to switch to artificial lights, which meant the exposure time had to be decreased slightly. I went from 8 seconds unlit in the previous shot to just 5 seconds. Nailed it. Whew. What a rush.
There's talk they want me to come back and shoot more images at a scene in the quarter.

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