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How to make a photographic version of the famous oil painting ‘The milkmaid’ by Vermeer

1/01/2020 ISO 1200 Magazine 0 Comments

The past year we got 9000 articles after nine years. The first post of 2020 is an interview and a behind the scenes video with a talented photographer based in Spain,  Francisco Hernandez Marzal. Sure you love it.

Your project “After Vermeer” is directly inspired by the work of Dutch painter Vermeer. How do you connect with his work, and what prompted you to make these images? And do you have a background in painting?

My academic background comes from my degree in Fine Arts at the Polytechnic University of Valencia, where I made a deep and immersive contact with the world of painting. From an early age, artistic activities always caught my attention and painting was one of them. Over the years the world of painting led way to another one: photography. I discovered my father's reflex camera at age 8 and began experimenting with it. I think that artistic activities are, and should always remain interconnected. A photographer who has knowledge of painting or a painter who has a good photographic knowledge is always something enriching and will be of great help and inspiration for their daily work.

In the specific case of Vermeer, his work connects a lot with the photographic technique. In his book 'Secret knowledge', the painter David Hockney investigates the use of the former masters of optical devices to facilitate the task of producing their pictorial work. One of them is the so-called 'Camera lucida' and its variants. Also worth of mention is the documentary 'Tim's Vermeer' where the author, Tim Jenison, supposedly and in a very plausible way, recreates the Vermeer technique through the help of mirrors and optical devices.

What, in your opinion, is the most important art characteristics in Vermeer’s painting? What about his personal vision still resonates today?

Vermeer's painting has something intimate and documentary about it, and opens a window in time and space in that world of Holland in the seventeenth century, depicting interior scenes, daily activities of common people and even some street scenes. Perhaps it is because of this approach, so domestic, and documentary that his works easily reach the general public and constitute a testimony of great value from an era.

What is it about The Milkmaid that inspired you to make this series? Between old paintings and re-creation photographs, which idea do you want to deliver via your works?

Since I left the brushes leading way to photography, the painting has never abandoned me at all. Whenever I have the opportunity, I visit the Prado Museum in Madrid and any gallery of interest wherever I am. The milkmaid painting has always been one of my favourites of Vermeer and one of the best known by the public and I had in mind for many years to make my personal version (not a replica) of that work.

What's the preparation process behind your photo shoots? For example, from the choice of the actors to the scenery, how do you do it?

The preparation of this photographic shooting took a long time, because I had been able to find a model with some features compatible with an inhabitant of Holland, with light skin and light hair, something not so common in Spain. Finally, I was able to contact the model Jordana Serrano who did a great job. The costumes were a key piece and for this task I contacted a dressmaker of enormous talent, Aryanna Chukotskaya who created the garments for the model, starting from scratch, choosing the fabrics and sewing them by hand.

The location was also very important since it required the presence of a lattice glass window to use it as the main point of entry of light from one side. Julian Ortiz was the one who provided the location and part of the props.

Another important task was the choice of a background canvas created and printed on purpose and also the searching for objects, baskets, ceramics and several visits to ovens to find loaves of bread that were suitable.

Finally, I must quote Adri Almazán who made us a wonderful video of the 'Behind the scenes' where the preparations, the essence and the feelings of the shooting are captured brilliantly.

Finally I have to mention Mer Haussmann who did a good work with the retouching of the last image of the series.

How do you setting light?

In this particular case, the choice of light was much simpler than the preparation of the shooting. The scene was illuminated with a continuous LED light bulb located outdoors at some distance from the window. To fill in the shadow areas, I used a white reflector situated on one side, aiming the model, thus reflecting part of the light coming from the window and filling in the shadow areas.

Are there any other artists out there who’ve directly inspired this project?

I have seen many talented photographers doing versions of famous painters. One of these big artists is Eugenio Recuenco, a well-known and acclaimed photographer that has been a good source of inspiration for me.

Which artist which painting do you want to make?

I have a long-term project about doing a version of the painter Hieronymus Bosch.

I am not sure when I will be able to conclude it, since it is a very big and ambitious project and will take a lot of time, research and effort to complete it.

About Francisco Hernandez Marzal:

My goal is to create images that go beyond the simple usual representation of the model, with a scenographic and pictorial character, creating environments, telling parallel stories. My enormous passion, desire and enthusiasm for the artistic fact of photography is what moves me to create images. I look for beauty and emotion united in the same framework. My professional photographic career moves in the field of advertising and Fine Art. Let's Get Connected: |  Twitter | Facebook | Instagram

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