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RIBBON RAINBOW NECKLACE by Parrot Pearls, a former San Francisco firm; low-fired ceramic tubing arcs, satin ribbons (Benesh 1979). Shot on Tufflock, with 1984 Bronica, 75mm Nikkor R-P f2.8 lens, studio strobe and 120mm Ektachrome film. Photographs by Robert K. Liu/Ornament..
Photography of Personal Adornment

Inside the Studio




When I shoot freehand, my camera becomes like an extension of my eyes, as I explore the ways to look at a piece of jewelry.

In this brief excerpt from Chapter 8 of my forthcoming book Photography of Personal Adornment, I show how most of the jewelry in these photographs was simply but carefully placed on the traditional sweep table, with a minimum of backgrounds, using either reflective or with both reflective light and transillumination provided by studio strobes. I used single lens reflex cameras and film, or digital SLRs with flash cards, equipped mostly with f2.8-f32 macro lenses of 55 to 105mm focal lengths. The full sixteen chapters of the book, with over five hundred photographs, show by example virtually all aspects of the photography of jewelry, wearable art and the environment in which such art is made and used.

In the studio, the jewelry or an ornament is usually immobile, that is, hung or laid on a surface. If I want to view all of it, I have to change my position or move the jewelry. In a photograph, such actions are not possible, as a camera image is static, not dynamic like our vision. So the visual impact of a photograph depends on how we place the jewelry in relation to the camera. The stunning Ribbon Rainbow, shown here and previously in other Ornament publications (Benesh 1979; Liu 1995) illustrates this. Designed to be worn with the ceramic tubing arcs held tightly against each other, it is actually difficult for the wearer to tie the ribbons tightly enough to produce this effect. If worn too loosely, the rainbow allusion is dissipated or lost entirely. So I chose to shoot it flat, with the arcs as close together as possible and arranged the ribbon ties to strengthen and mirror the rainbow effect, although the colors of the ribbons are intentionally the opposite of the ceramic arcs. Tying the ribbons lightly controls how they lay; they are also swirled and placed so as to direct the viewer’s eyes to flow from the ceramic to the ribbons in an upward sweep, aided by the transition from the shiny smooth ceramic surfaces to the colorful but satiny ribbons. This composition or arrangement keeps the imagery dynamic.






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