DiCorcia’s highly-narrative photo lighting for his “Heads” series

August 31, 2010 — 7 Comments
dicorcis's photo lighting of heads project on guess the lighting blog
dicorcis's photo lighting of heads project on guess the lighting blog

dicorcis's photo lighting of heads project on guess the lighting blog

dicorcis's photo lighting of heads project on guess the lighting blog

ted sabarese photo lighting diagram of dicorcia on guess the lighting

copyright, Philip-Lorca DiCorcia

These simple, yet highly-narrative, images from DiCorcia’s “Heads” series were secretly taken on the streets of New York City with 1 light (which was attached to scaffolding and unbeknownst to the subjects).

Camera: Nikon F2 with 300mm lens and Kodak Portra 100 ASA film, set on a tripod across the street. Shot at 1/60, f22, ISO 100. The lens was stopped down to create a dark canvas for the characters to pop against.

Lighting: The hidden strobe is a Profoto Magnum reflector with 10 degree honeycomb grid at f22. It’s positioned high and to camera left on temporary scaffolding with a super clamp. DiCorcia waits until a pedestrian walks by the marked spot, then takes their portrait.

Comments: Most of the New Yorkers in this series were such New Yorkers that they didn’t really notice the blinding strobe flashing in their eyes and walked on without any comment. Except Erno Nussenzweig, who sued DiCorcia for $2 million before the case was finally dismissed.

  • DP

    Do you really think that F22 would give you that depth of field? Not being a smartass, I’m asking.

    • I’m thinking the 300mm lens could still give that shallow a depth of field at f22, but great question.

  • Dany

    f22 with bokeh? impossible.

  • Kelson

    I was under the impression these were all shot on a large format camera and also looks like a 2 light setup to me, most of the people were aware of the camera, would be much harder if he was using a 300mm lens on a 35mm body

  • AnthoNYC

    I walked by DiCorsia when he was shooting this in Times Square years ago. I had no idea who he was or what he was doing until I saw the large prints in a Chelsea gallery a couple of years later. I tried to talk with him but he was NOT interested. I can confirm that he was shooting 35mm and that he used a single strobe. He was on a ladder on the same sidewalk as the subjects. He was dressed very casually which made him look like a construction worker. Hardly anyone noticed him. The bright midday sun was dappling throught the scaffolding and made it almost impossible to notice the flash firing.

  • DK

    I’ve seen the talk with diCorcia I think it was the talk in TATE Modern and he said he was using medium format camera with telephoto lens… same as all his other work, all shot on medium format. Also that’s why it has shallow depth of field at f22.

  • DK

    Here you can watch the talk where he says that he was using medium format camera with longest lens available for this particular camera: