Behind the lens

My Vegetal Spine

"Only a gifted photographer would spot the potential in the shadows cast by palm trees on a yard floor," our expert judge said in his review of this image by Amélie Berton, which won the expert vote in our Summer Portraits contest. Here's the story behind Amélie's intriguing shot.

"I saw this shadow and immediately thought of a backbone. I thought it would be great to put myself underneath so the shadow would match my dorsal spine.

I took my camera, tripod and remote and rushed to the plants. Getting fully naked was not possible as it is a common patio for the whole building, even though that was my first idea. So I took off my top and lay on the floor. My boyfriend was watching in case any neighbours passed by so I could quickly get dressed again if I needed to. I know some people would find it very weird to get half naked 'just to take a picture' in a public space, so I prefer to avoid this situation and the 'you're crazy' look whenever possible!

On a more technical side, I faced the usual self-portrait challenges. It took me time to find the right pose and focus. Another challenge was the sky - it was cloudy so sometimes I had to wait until the shadow was harsh enough to get the sought-after effect.

In my work I am very attracted to and inspired by natural elements, and the idea of nature as a soul-healing place. Usually I love to shoot outside (when the weather allows it, as I live in Brussels)- in this case it was a beautiful natural element in a house. I also love to question the relationship between human beings and nature, not as opposites but as a complementary relationship. In this shadow I really saw a skeletal shape - very human, not vegetal - and thought of the resemblances between human and nature.

The post-processing on this image was quite simple. I added some texture because it allows the photograph to look more like a painting, and gives it a timeless feeling. I also desaturated the image as the floor was very red and it distracted the viewer from the main focus. I also like the desaturated look as it looks a little like earth, with the same brown tones. I added some contrast, playing with dodge and burn to have better control of the light."

You can see more of Amélie's work here, here, here, and here.

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