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Diary: Setting The Scene

by Penny Martin on 27 November 2003

In her second on-set essay, Penny Martin examines the progress and organic development of Nick Knight and Jonathan Kaye's By Arrangement shoot.

In her second on-set essay, Penny Martin examines the progress and organic development of Nick Knight and Jonathan Kaye's By Arrangement shoot.

Image from 'By Arrangement' shot by Nick Knight

27 November 2003 19:00hrs

Polaroids stacking up on the polyboards flanking the photo set represent the passage of time as much as they document the shots taken. Perhaps predictably with this maverick set of image-makers, the series of images amassed already reveals a departure from some of the initial intentions for the shoot.

Michael Howells explains how the floral props and furniture initially envisaged to adorn the set seemed over-mannered when introduced on the day.

The gilt chair positioned centre stage at the beginning of the day, indicative of the stock props of luxury 1860s portrait studios such as Camille Silvy's or Disdéri's, has since been relegated to the wings. Tracing his fingers over the slivers of mantelpieces and edges of tables that skim the margins of Spry's pictures in the source book, Michael Howells explains how the floral props and furniture initially envisaged to adorn the set seemed over-mannered when introduced on the day. 'We wanted to give a sense of the interior creeping in without overstatement. Nick and I realised the narrative was most effective when created by shadows of the props rather than the objects themselves'.

Featuring a girlish yellow chiffon Ferretti dress and the inspirational Margiela flowers themselves, the series from which will come the second shot reveals how this shadow-play introduces a sense of narrative that transforms a simple studio portrait into a dramatic psychological profile. The spectre of the set - cast by shadows over the body of the model - is most present in its absence.

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