True Colors in Black-and-White: Portraits by Dave Giroux
From June through October 2017, I created a series of more than 30 black-and-white portraits, all of which employ the “invisible backdrop” technique. Using this method, a photo shoot staged in broad daylight produces images that look like they were created in a darkened studio. The process begins by intentionally underexposing the image, to the extent that the camera’s LCD screen appears black. Then, one or more off-camera flash units illuminate the subject, while the background remains dark.
I first tried this technique with my daughter Sophie. Sitting on the back lawn, she strummed her new ukulele while I clicked, and we managed to create some shadowy, interesting photographs. I was intrigued by how the absence of any background detail focused one's attention on the subject and her prop, eliminating any distractions. Converting the image to black and white emphasized this isolation.
I looked for ways to use this technique with others who had interesting hobbies or jobs that might be depicted with a prop or pose. My friend Paula sang for me. Neighbor Stephen demonstrated yoga poses. Joe rode his bicycle. I shared my early results with Dean (who would later pose for his own portrait), explaining how I hoped to reveal each subject’s pastime, profession, or personality. He noted the irony of using black-and-white images to reveal one’s true colors. Thus, my project had a name.