Free the Naiads! Chapter Four: Continuous Lights with the Godox SL60W

· 22.February.2019

It has been almost one year since I published the third chapter of my project Free the Naiads!, life gets always busier than busy… Especially this year… But since I am supposed to exhibit the project later this year, I had to eventually find the time, the concept, the model, the make-up artist, and to proceed into producing a new chapter of the project, so here it is (well, part of it, I tried to keep the “nude” ones out, you can see more on my instagram or Vogue portfolios!).

As you might recall, Free the Naiads came into my mind after the awful removal of Waterhouse’s Pre-Raphaelite painting in the famous Manchester Art Gallery censorship episode (when Museum’s curator suddenly felt too “embarrassed” to show Watherhouse’s painting in the gallery). I wanted to address the inner and spontaneous female sensuality (and sexuality) and to reflect on the futility of hiding or caging it.

That very
same inner and spontaneous female sensuality has always been known in history,
the ancient Greek mythology had it embodied by the Nymphs. Naiads were,
according to those same Greeks, “fresh water nymphs” and, as such, were
considered to preside “over fountains, wells, springs, streams, brooks and
other bodies of fresh water” (cit. WikiPedia).

The project
is about a dream-like vision of the Naiads trapped in Manchester Art Gallery,
after the removal of Waterhouse’s Pre-Raphaelite painting. In this vision I see
the plastic of the covering and the smoke of dust and abandonment transforming
into liquid water, in which the Naiads can swim and swirl again, naked and
lustful as they were first imagined and described thousands of years ago. As
the semi-gods that they are, the naiads are rising free again, not by fighting,
but simply thanks to the same sexual power men tried to shut. Hence, the
plastic used to box them becomes the water they thrive in, the dust in the
forgotten storage that they have been kept in becomes the mist they appear
from, and so on.

For this
chapter I wanted to work on the expressionist ideal of woman, the kind of goddesses
that the painter Klimt used to portray. I wanted to create a succubus-like
Naiad, lit in fire and gold, with a silvery, fish-like, skin that would shine
at the moonlight. I wanted to take another step into female sexuality, and I
wanted it to look fiercer, more predatory.

I had the perfect model, Giuditta Sin, a famous burlesque dancer. Giuditta not only looks like one of Klimt’s muses, she also moves and breaths like one. With the make-up artist Eleonora we worked on a make-up and hairstyle style that fashioned Klimt’s thick paint strokes.

For the “fire”
I used the Christmas tree lights, the “warm” kind (warm in terms of white
balance temperature, they were perfectly fresh on the skin!), with transparent
cord. They did a wonderful job in shining gorgeously over the golden strokes of
thick make-up. Bu how to reveal the model’s figure, as well as the layers of
plastic sheet surrounding her, by a cold and misterious moonlight?

I needed a white light, and any of my flashes would have been perfect. But one year ago, when I shot the second chapter of Free the Naiads!, I used the colored Christmas lights together with flashes, and I vividly remember how difficult it had been to mix them properly, especially because flashes, even at their lowest output, tend to overtake Christmas light. So, this time I decided to go with LED continuous lights. Continuous lights are extremely useful when working with mirrorless cameras, because the viewfinder is going to show exactly what the final picture will look like. This is a great advantage over DSLRs, and advantage that gets lost when working with flashes (even though, mirrorless cameras have other axes in their sleeves).

A few
months ago, I got the Godox SL60W on an Amazon sale. It is a 60W continuous led
light that fits Bowen’s accessories, which means mostly all my diffusers. Since
the moonlight is sort of a softer and colder sunlight, I opted of a beauty-dish
as diffuser (which is designed to mimic soft sunlight). The SL60W comes with a
remote to tune the light’s power, which is very handful. In particular, it
proved to be critical when using the smoke machine. Smoke can capture most of
the light when it comes out thick, and then lets more and more light to pass
through as it dissolves, so I had to tune the light’s power quite a lot.

Godox produces
other, more expensive, options for led lights: more powerful, with white
temperature control, with batteries, etc., but I found the SL60W to be good,
reliable, and with more than a decent range from minimum to maximum power to never
have to worry about it during the shooting. Which is basically the best I can
say about any piece of equipment… It is quite cheap, plus you can find it on often
on sale on Amazon. If you’re looking for a solid LED light for your studio,
give it a try.