Imitating Jan Scholz

Photoshoot with Sandy, 2012
Nikkormat, 135mm lens

Photography has taken me down several paths, one of which is portraiture with models. In 2012 I accompanied my friend Katie to her shoot with Sandy. This was my first shoot with a model. I had a five dollar Nikkormat with a color roll from Walgreens. Kirk gave me a 135mm lens. Katie helped pose Sandy and I got a decent photo or two out of the deal.

I upgraded to a DSLR the next year and booked a few models to photograph. Katie recommended I create a “mood board” so I did. I collected other peoples portraits that I liked on Tumblr and referenced it during the shoot. I even opened a casting call titled “Moody Portraits”. I had decent luck shooting this way for some time.

Over the years I added and added to this “mood board” and, well, there was no cohesive mood left. My photos became disconnected from any central idea. All my portraits in 2016 and 2017 reflected nothing more than an average mash of the mood board. Any photographer with a DSLR would get these shots. My “Moody Portraits” project was effectively dead.

I started photographing medium format in early 2018 and decided to dust off the old profile on Model Mayhem. I wanted to come up with a new project. This is when I discovered Jan Scholz’s work. He is based out of Belgium and like me holds a non-photography full-time job. His portraits are breathtaking. I later realized that he shoots only film in small, medium and large format.

Jan’s work gave me the idea for a project of my own. I built a new “mood board” with photos only from Jan.

My current mood board; all photos by Jan Scholz

My current mood board; all photos by Jan Scholz

I made a list of the type of poses I liked the best, a list of angles of the head, placement of hair, line of sight and bends of joints, etc.. I wrote these down in index cards and I take them with me to a photo shoot. When we are stuck during a shoot, I pull out the index cards for a quick reference.

To be clear, I am not trying to copy Jan’s photos. I am only trying to imitate the feeling in his portraits while using my slow, deliberate style. Further, my choice of models, venue, camera/lens, and film choices all color my particular interpretation of this project.

Austin Kleon said it best: Steal like an artist