photographed by Andy Batt, December 2018
When a call comes in to photograph someone who titles themselves “Carlos The Rollerblader“, I say yes first, and then find out what the story is second. I’ve done other profile pieces for Portland Monthly Magazine, but Carlos’ portrait is one of my favorites.
First up, Carlos prefers They/Them pronouns. Yes this is new to some people, but it’s not that hard to do a little retraining and get your brain wrapped around the concept. Maybe it’s all the amazing SF that I’ve read over the past few years, but this just makes sense to me. The tricky bit is getting my brain to not need to be actively thinking about it, to get it firmly in place. This has nothing to do with making the image and everything to do with me being a better photographer.
I did some preliminary sketches and lighting tests on this one—the goal was to find a way of creating motion and direction, to find a visual metaphor for Carlos and their work as a stand up comedian and phone advice giver (seriously, Carlos will answer the phone and give you life advice). Also, Carlos is a rollerblader. Like, they perform on rollerblades, on stage. And everywhere else. Carlos has a constant feeling of motion, even when they are standing still.
Carlos arrived on set and we began the collaboration—they were a lot of fun to have in the studio. They also DJ professionally, so I turned over the airplay stream to them and we had killer music during the entire session.
I ended up with a carefully built, sculpted light look, designed to create beautiful tones where it hit and to drop off quickly to deep shadow where it didn’t.
The graphic quality of the light created that visual momentum, carrying you around the contours and lines of their face.
Of course, since it’s my brain we’re working with here, I had a second idea on the backburner—using a combination of a long shutter, carefully set continuous lights and a multipop sequence to add true visual sense of motion + I really wanted to do a full length shot to get those rollerblades in. It’s an old school technique but done with a deliberate intention in mind—it wasn’t about creating meaningless streaks or blur, it was making a connected graphic, echoing the design ideas in the portraits.