P magazine with kara neko : ph erica shires
styling : heather newberger
h/m : amanda wilson

Pushed with enough force, out of all the photographers who consistently blow me the hell away with their vision and craft, I’d name Erica Shires the most consistent and thoroughly exceptional contemporary photographer.

On some level it’s a result of her technical chops–from wet plates to digital she knows various processes fluently enough to use each to pristine effect.

Yet, underlying even that is the interplay between her use of color and her incisive eye for photographing women.

It’s a fact you can take to the bank: no one in the world shoots Johanna Stickland anything like Shires. There’s an unfeigned stillness, an objectless/subjectless presence in the moment–like the pause in the storm where for a split second the surface of the water appears as a darkened windowpane.

It’s taken me a while to pick up on it but virtually everyone Shires chooses to shoot, the resulting images present something entirely distinct.

Kara has commented repeatedly that no one has ever understood her quite like photographer Jonathan Waiter. (And really, you need look no further than those images to be certain of the accuracy of the statement.) Yet, in the above images there is something uncharacteristically light about Kara’s mein. Something allowing her to walk effortlessly on the tightrope between her intensely focused, fiercely sophisticated and confident modeling persona and something uncomplicated, skirting joyfulness and abutting playfulness.

I’m abstracting. Let me attempt to be concrete. Kara is elegant, statuesque and grave in so much of her work. Yet, she also clearly enjoys herself (consider this image of her with rapper El-P). In these there seems less opposition between her ‘modeling persona’ and her unselfconscious performance of identity.

There’s more I could say but I feel like I’m rambling a little like an idiot. So moving right along: there  another reason I posted this.

You know how I’m always talking about editing? Well, I wanted to illustrate what I mean.

First, given only this contact sheet which images do you think are the most effective?

Now, the answer is going to depend on a host of things. This appears to have been for an editorial. So, you’d need to consider the taste/aesthetic of the publication. I’m not privy to any of those things–I’m just going by things like composition, context and the dynamics of what the frame conveys.

The benefit here is that from the standpoint of exposure–the images are crazy uniform. (Like, seriously: my own shit is nowhere close to this consistent…) Thus you can pretty much choose to use any of the shoots.

My edit would be: Column 1 Row 4, Column 2 Row 1 & Column 3 Row 4.

Why? Well, Column 1 Row 1, Column 4 Row 3 & 4 are vertically oriented. This is one of the reasons I’m always screaming about #skinnyframebullshit–not how on the contact sheet given the orientation with which the contact sheet is presented, these shots are actually impossible to read without flipping the sheet so that it matches their orientation. (For the record I did flip them and I just don’t find these images as compelling. In the last two, it’s difficult to understand why anyone in that level of undress or not would be bending over the fence in that manner; it just seems awkward to me & while Column 1 Row 1 is a good image, it lacks the dynamism of other shots.)

Column 1 Row 2 and Column 1 Row 3 would have worked if you split the difference. The position of Kara’s arms is better in the C1R3, the position of her head is better in C1R2.

C2R2-4 increasingly diminish context and position Kara an increasingly abstracted landscape. The sense of audacity and spectacle is lessened.

C3R2 would’ve been the second best of the bunch but the hilltop house directly behind Kara’s head and the fact that even though it’s out of focus in the distance her eye line leads right into it and my eye sort of gets stuck there as a result. C3R1 and C3R3 have the same problems as C2R2-4.

C4R1 has something similar in mind to C3R2 but the less steep angle of the hillside is nowhere near as compelling. (This is the rare time I’d ever say closer is better but in this case it would’ve also blocked out that little bit of the house you can see in the background.)

C4R2 might’ve worked wider but as it is I’m not really sure what the hell is going on.

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