Snake shoot

Double bind (view on flickr)

Last week I had a wonderful naked shoot with an animal I’d never even touched before. We shot with Honey the mega 9-foot, albino Burmese python (plus a smaller, 5-foot Royal Python). Collaborating with Matt to shoot images of myself posing, we shot on the private land of a friend, and with both Ken the snakehandler and an assistant to help.

I’ve posted three images to Flickr but as the nudity needed to be moderated, I wanted to share the images here to make sure they are viewable by everyone. Also I wanted to show a couple of candid shots and mention a bit of the process…

Snaked (view on flickr)

Most of the shots were done with the 9-foot Burmese python. Visually, he was more ideal than the smaller snake. (Below is an snap of me with both). We tried shots with the smaller snake and with both snakes together, but the yellow snake was far more effective, not just because of size that helped to cinematically dwarf me but also in terms of colour. He was also less timid than the Royal one which curled up in a ball most of the time.

Having the snake on me for about two hours, I truly enjoyed something I thought I’d have to endure! It was a glorious warm day which made being nude very easy, and the snake was a treat. I described the snake to someone on Flickr as being like a ‘like a huge warm leather arm rendering the services of a relaxing massage chair.’

We shot with the Phase One 645DF & P40+ back, the first time on our ‘challenge’ that we’d used it. We also shot with a Photoflex TritonFlash for the first time. Shooting in bright sunlight, with all the other factors, made this shoot a challenge for sure.

During the 2 hours we did 3 vague ’set-ups’ in the area we were in (which were all close to each other): one around a pond and on some steps near it, another in a sheltered area and another near a small shack which used to be a miniature station for a steam train.

Below is a video screengrab of some footage we filmed through the shoot (thanks to Ruby). We did behind the scenes video with the intention of using it as part of our Phase One Challenge videos which we’ll be putting together over the next few weeks. So keep your eyes peeled for that.

The three images I produced from the shoot (at the top of the blog post) are all vaguely of different styles. On top of the practical challenges of the day, I also wanted to get something different from the tacky and cliched images of women and snakes seen in the media, and veer more towards the aesthetics of women and snakes in classical paintings. However, I also wanted to keep the images in the present day with some kind of contemporary touch. After all, we were shooting with top-end gear and flash lighting which was giving great detail and sheen to the images.

I first processed Snaked (see further above)  which was more an exercise in colour and composition than anything. I loved the way we had managed to capture all eight foot of the snake’s body in perfect curvature across me. The snake was constantly on the move so timing was hit and miss; there were a lot of misses, so this aesthetically was a hit for me.

Double bind, however (the main image at the top of this post) took more time to process. The pose in this one was more specifically inspired by paintings: John Collier’s Lilith, and Evelyn de Morgan’s Cadmus and Harmonia. There was a comment left by one of my followers on Flickr which I think is a wonderful analysis (almost a essay in terms of it profundity – as well as length) giving his interpretation of my image. Read it here.

And lastly, the third image I refer to is my ‘Snake candid’ shot.

This is some text I wrote for it:

Out of all the more contrived pictures I did with the snake, why does this one fascinate me so?

It is the shot that makes me stare for a long while. I stare at the scene as if I was seeing it for the first time. I stare at the extraordinary amongst the ordinary: the steps, the tilt of the feet, the eagerness of the thrust over the head, the utterly bizarre thick yellow reptile the girl clenches in her hands and I wonder: what next? Some of the best photography I have seen makes me wonder ‘what next’; it behaves like a moving image. You can see it a bit bigger if you click here, but it you saw it full size, you’d see the flick of the snake’s tongue, the blue fingernails arranged around the python’s scales, a tensed abdomen leading down to an unapologetically exposed nether region seated with surprising comfort upon a grizzly concrete step.

I would hardly say this was the best shot of the day. But it is far different from the others. It’s an honest candid of a contrived set-up; one of those images that take on perfection through their imperfections. It doesn’t demand to be the ‘best’. It is a scene, at once quiet and provoking. It belongs by itself.

There’s also one other image I produced from the shoot called ‘Eye’ which I was going to share but felt it had too much of an ‘unexpurgated’ feel amongst the others. It has a different tone, it’s almost a fourth style amongst the set and probably some breathing space round it. Maybe I’ll post it another day.

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Posted in My images - versions & outtakes on April 17th, 2011 | 8 Comments |

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Comments for “Snake shoot”

    1. jestem
      9:22 pm on April 17th, 2011

      Love, love, love. You know how much I like the first two, but the “candid” is also wonderful just in a different manner. I’m often not a big fan of high color saturation since it tends to feel too fake, but here the use of the saturated colors is really a very nice bit of fining. I’m not sure what it looks like large, of course, but the image come off with that marble sculpture feel that I’ve commented on before. Good decision.

    2. Lash LaRue
      11:51 pm on April 17th, 2011

      These are all fascinating, the preparation shots as well as the finished product. A nice feature of the photos is that one can really sense the motion, the fact that the python was not still. “Hold it there, Honey” just wouldn’t work, would it. And the sense of motion is in your reaction to the snake as much as it is in the tensions of the snake.

    3. Jessica Tremp
      3:58 am on April 18th, 2011

      I just absolutely ADORE them!

    4. Mike
      12:02 am on April 21st, 2011

      They are unusual and great shots and very emphatic. Well done

    5. Claire Ward
      2:27 pm on April 21st, 2011

      Hi Aniela, couldnt leave a comment for some reason on the flickr one of Snake candid…I love it because its the `trying to workit out’ feeling you get when you looking for a picture, certainly says that to me..great great imagery..your really onto something here..

    6. attila
      2:28 pm on May 23rd, 2011

      I sow your livebooks site, and got stuck :)
      The level that you photography do is a special one, and i must say:

      Really nice work!

    7. Video 2/3: using Phase One for fine art – snake shoot
      5:15 pm on May 31st, 2011

      [...] The video goes behind the scenes to look at a shoot we did in April this year (which I previously blogged about) where I directed and modelled with a python, collaborating with my boyfriend on the taking [...]

    8. Kevbo
      8:38 am on June 1st, 2011

      Enjoyed the b-t-s of this shoot. Really lovely results, Nat. You and the snake are visibly comfortable together.

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