Portrait Photography : Iron Pour in Frankenmuth, MI
One of my favorite subjects for portrait photography is artists. They’re typically easy to work with and the environment they work in is usually unique and photogenic. After my shoot with Matt Eich, a Saginaw artist who builds amazing steel bodied resonator guitars, I’ve been on the hunt for another artist to photograph. I’ve been working with a Stephen Hargash (a local Frankenmuth painter and artist) on a few different projects. When he mentioned that Frankenmuth Arts Council was going to host an iron pour in Frankenmuth and that it would have a lot of artists and be good for photos…I jumped at the opportunity.
I knew I wanted more than just a set of photojournalistic photos from the event. I wanted a set of portraits that gave my audience a little bit more insight into the people that are willing to risk personal safety in the name of art. I settled on a simple portrait setting hoping that the artists would be game with being photographed during an extremely grueling process. I really wanted to capture them in their element and highlight the stress of working with extreme temperatures and in a physically demanding situation. I had never met any of the artists and so I was not sure what to expect or how willing they would be to be part of the project.
I started off by creating up a small studio setup-just a simple one, light (modified with a beauty dish) with a black background. I chose this direction because I wanted a basic setting that yielded moody looking results. I also knew I wanted to isolate the artists and focus the viewers attention to their expressions and the dirt, grime, and sweat that comes with playing with fire.
Then, I started photographing the event to get some action and environment photos to go along with my portraits. I knew I was stepping into something more than a typical photoshoot when I arrived and they gave me a welding jacket to wear while I was taking photos. Anytime I have to wear safety gear as a photographer usually means I’m in the right place and have found an environment to create photos that I otherwise wouldn’t be able to be a part of.
It was a crazy event to witness. The purpose of the pour is to take scrap cast iron and repurpose it by heating it up to 2,400°F until it is molten. The molten iron is then poured into a hardened sand mold to create castings. However, the explanation sounds makes the process seem simple, but after watching and experiencing the event, I can assure you that it was not. I spent the next few hours just photographing and watching the event. It was certainly an experience. Anytime you can be around people who are so passionate about their art that they are willing to risk their own personal safety is inspiring. I didn’t want to interrupt the process because I could tell that the artists were focused on the dangerous task of stoking a fire. It took hours for the fire to be hot enough to melt the iron.
As the night progressed the process started to slow down and I had time to take a portrait of each artist in my makeshift studio. I could tell that the artists were a little bit skeptical at first but after they saw the type of portraits I was creating, they loosened up and were much easier to work with. I was tethered to a computer so they could see the end results as it was happening. This is an extremely important part of headshot photography for me. When I’m able to help make my subjects feel comfortable by showing them my vision as I work, they are typically more willing to engage in and enjoy the process…the results are infinitely better. Below are some of my favorites from the night.
It was an inspiring event to be a part of and I was glad I was able to capture it. Anytime I’m able to photograph and connect with people who are passionate about what they’re doing, it makes my job of creating much easier.