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Paolo Roversi Technique

al larson

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Does anyone know how Paolo Roversi gets his unique feel for his

photographs? I know he uses an 8x10 Deardorff, 360mm Goerz f 6.8,

cross processes 804/809 for chocolate polas. I think he uses some

tilt and shift in his shots too. I would enjoy a discussion about

his technique and appraoch from forum members who know him or have

worked with him. I believe Roversi's work is timeless and stands

apart from anything anyone else is doing. Here is a link to one of

his Cerruti ads


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Funny, I was just reading a Roversi interview in a French magazine. "I'm anti-technical" he says. Like Avedon, it's all about his relationship with the subject, not so much about technique (of course he knows his 8X10 Deardorff like the back of his hand). He uses HMI lights combined with available light, doesn't use a light meter, and he likes the very slight blur caused by 1/4 to 1 second exposures. That's all I can tell you from the article.



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Thanks Oliver and Andrew. Oliver, it is kind of funny but my experience in photography is like a spiral or a helix...I keep getting reminders to keep it simple. Funny how that works. I enjoy the texture and delicacy of Roversi's images but maybe I enjoy the relationship he has with his subject and the resulting expressions more. With HMI lights and no meter and 804/809 cross processing he must spend lots of time with his subjects. I have shot large format the same way and it is very time consuming and very expensive but very pleasing. I have not achieved the result...yet. I better work on my interpersonal skills! I have a head start as I love people...the camera and the process really distracts me...maybe I want it to be perfect for my subject. If you have any advice for how to defrag the distraction, I am all ears (I'd really like to watch Mr. Roversi work...I could learn alot). When I find the look I am looking for I will post it here. Andrew, I am trying to buy the reprint...was it March 05? Maybe it is still in the stands. Thanks. AL
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"This is also a good reminder that people photography is about people first"


Actually, I'm not sure that Roversi is a good example of this. I think his work is

very much about putting women on a pedestal. It's all very idealised. This is

not meant as a criticism but as an observation.


If you read his interview in PDN I think you'll get a sense of what motivates

him and his work. I think it's very romantic, with a captal R, work.

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Thanks Andrew. I received the March 05 PDN last night. The article is excellent. It appears that he prefers natural light and real slow speeds. The article says that he uses Arri HMI lights when needed. I'm wondering if one could replicate the light using strobes or tungsten light?
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It's not really going to work with strobes but tungsten lights might do the trick.


You could either use tungsten balanced film or put daylight correction gels

over the lights. The latter might be the best route but you must remember that

the gels will knock off a lot of light and the darned things get very hot. Proceed

with caution :)


Another thing about tungtsten lights is that they can be a lot harder than the

light offered from HMIs. You should defintely consider softening the light as

much as possible.


Another thing worth mentioning, is Roversi's choice of models. A lot of them

are slightly other worldly or ethereal in some way. He doesn't really go for the

Sports Illustrated type of girl.............

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  • 2 weeks later...
  • 3 weeks later...
Pleased to be here. I am also trying to achieve this look. For the moment i am more interested in Roversi's color images. the cross processing as far as i understand is for the chocolate/sepia: 8x10 Neg portion crossed with color side in the polaroid processor. But how about Roversi's color images, which have an elegant, low-saturation, rich texture. Is there any image or emulsion transfer going on here?? Or does the color neg processed with the color positive produce these textures and pastels by itself? ...when the light and the model are the mark. - Are there any transfers going on???
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The April issue of "W" magazine has a full color spread by Paolo Roversi featuring his favorite model. It is kind of fun to look at but no classic or memorable images in my opinion. If you like the look, the May issue of "W" has a color spread of Natalie Portman that is awesome. The photographer is not Paolo Roversi but the color and feel are very similar.

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The "W" shoot with Natalie Portman was done by Mert Alas and Marcus Piggott. They work as a team on their shoots, and together were recently ranked as #13 in American Photo's "100 most important people in photography" isue. I was surprised as well as I initially thought it was a Paolo Roversi shoot.
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  • 8 months later...



I just received a copy of Paolo Roversi's new book "Studio". For any photographer it is very nice to review. His publisher does not spend much on the physical book but this is typical for a Roversi book. The work is very cool. It is the first time we get a glimpse into his studio(which he compares to the inside of his camera). There are some wonderful portraits and we get to see his Deardorff along with his lens of choice, a 12" Goerz Dagor 6.8 in Acme or Illex(?) Shutter. It makes me want to go into my studio with my Wisner 8x10, a 12" Dagor and some Polaroid 803/804 and get to it. The inspiration makes the book worth it. Now, when is he going to have a show in the United States? Bravo Mr. Roversi.

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  • 3 weeks later...

The book "Studio" looks like every kids portfolio out of Art school, similar to Nudi, poorly

constructed & ridiculously over priced, it's $210 when it should be $50. Nice work but

nothing just about every Fashion photographers assistant trying to get a break in the late

70's and early eighties didn't do with weird models 8x10 and polaroid. Deirdorffs. D2's,

Darlots, Dallmeyers, Goerz, Ektars some vasoline and cross processing & long exposures.

Throw lith printing in the mix. ... Nothing new.

The key to Paolo's work is being so well connected in the fashion industry. You don't get

jobs or accolades like Paolo by walking a portfolio and having allot of photo know how. It

just doesn't happen in Fashion without serious connections. Take Paolo's book and cut the

pictures out, put them in your own portfolio and no one would think anything of them

other than them being nice pictures.

Don't even get me started on Steven Meisel who got work through connections with

Mademoiselle without having a portfolio or any photo knowledge what so ever, then or

now. I know, I was there & his tech assistant for 2 years.

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Mert Alas and Marcus Piggott, thats funny, like Guzman, the Douglas Brothers, Davis & Starr.


It takes 2 people to make the photo but without the connections and Over hype they look like

everyone else.


It's all about the Hype & Money spent in Fashion, I wouldn't walk across the street to see a

photo show of fashion photographs....quote by Irving Penn.....

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Jaques Bagios , mar 23, 2005; 10:15 a.m.

This is also a good reminder that people photography is about people first. Then comes



I had to respond 1 more time after reading this post.

You couldn't be any more wrong.

Having worked for a long list of fashion photographers in NYC in the early 80's, Many

never uttered a word or very minimally while shooting.

Many were down right rude. Penn would make AD's wait in the hall until he was done

shooting and he had no patience for models. Horst on the other hand was just the

opposite, he would get the assistance coffee.

Bill King & Meisel rarely spoke to anyone, never gave models directions and didn't know

which end was the front of the camera and they reached the top of the ladder of people

photography. Meisel never owned a camera until he had been working for over 5 years. He

rented my Hasselblad & Nikons paying for them 15 times over early on. He was more

interested in putting on his own makeup during shoots many times handing the camera

off to someone else.

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  • 1 year later...

Well, this is a bit late since a year has gone by but I just wanted to respond to the last

comment by Dave about putting people first, then photography thing. I'm not one to jump

up and wave my hands around about who've I had the opportunity to work with, but I think

what the original poster was trying to say is that some photographers such as Roversi do

put their subjects first, I know because I have worked with him. He is very much interested

in creating an atmosphere with his subject and sometimes I have witnessed him unable to

achieve this and other times I have witnessed the way he can bring a calm to a model just

by a touch. He very much puts his subject first because he believes if he can't get that

atmosphere of peace in his subject then he will definitely be unable to get a photo that

expresses his emotions. Everyone has there thing, but to me he remains faithful to the

spirit of the emotion of photography and to say he has not paid his dues is also false. He

came to Paris from Italy and started working as a simple reporter, he has been around,

believe it or not. Not everyone in the fashion arena is just a lackey.

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