I never made a better purchase in a book shop than my copy of ” Jazz Age Beauties” -a collection of the works of Alfred Cheney Johnson. It is printed in a brown Woodburytype style and sets forth a number of the works that he did for the stars of the Ziegfeld Follies in the 1920’s. I believe the bulk of the works were rediscovered a few years ago by a chap in America and he has been making a living re-publishing them and fighting with people who steal the images and re-re-publish them.
I was inspired for 2008 to make the theme the focus of the WAMED exhibiotion. I called upon a number of dancers and costumed friends to contribute -some were able to do so in the style a ACJ in various states of drape – some preferred to do it more fully clothed in imitation of Hollywood publicity shots of the time.
The work was done using large and medium-format camera systems and then digitised. The pallet is accordingly a muted one – few colour works and many of the monochrome images toned heavily. It was a lot of fun to analyse the actual props that ACJ used – I found them to be quite limited. I was delighted to find an image in the book that showed the working portion of his studio as well, as it showed the small compass of the the backdrops and suggested that I could do as well with my studio. I was also fortunate to discover a number of the props and wigs available in the internet through eBay. Malign it if you will, but it does have a ready supply of items that no-one else lists.
Some of the images I made them are unrepeatable – the models have moved away or changed shape. Some of the post production is complex but I failed to record the work sequences at the time and could only guess at them now.
Fortunately I have met a new set of models at the Steampunk balls and they have a great deal of costuming and hairdressing skill. I intend to look carefully now at the works of Sarony and Nadar and lesser-known studios of the late Victorian and Edwardian era and see if they can be re-ceated with the Fujifilm digital system. I still have the props and more skill in lighting and post-processing.