“Tin soldiers and Nixon’s coming
We’re finally on our own
This summer I hear the drumming
Four dead in O-hi-o”
– Neil Young

The killing of four students by National Guardsmen at Kent State University during an anti-war protest in 1970. That’s one of the few things I knew about Ohio when my friend Dave Levingston invited me to visit him there and to photograph some of his models. I mean, like – what is there to know??? That Woody Hayes was the coach of the Ohio State football team and liked to slap his players around? That a peace accord was reached there to end the crisis in the Balkans? Oh, yeah – a couple of brothers named Orville and Wilbur used to have a bicycle shop there somewhere.

I decided to accept Dave’s kind offer and so traveled to Ohio for a weekend in January 2004. (This is part two of my four part series of nude photo sessions from December 2003 to Februray 2004.) Being in the winter, I had to work in his studio in Dayton. Personally, a studio is not the ideal place for me to work. I much prefer a nice outdoor spot or even an interesting indoor location, as opposed to a basically empty room which most studios are. It was going to be a challenge.

One of my other challenges was going to be how to photograph Nemesis. This particular model was covered by a multitude of tattoos – and I generally prefer to work with models who have no tattoos or piercings. Apparently she had gotten wind of this preference of mine and was concerned (to put it mildly) about working with someone who has a ‘don’t like tattoos’ attitude. On the other hand, when I finally met her, she told me that she was upset that a lot of photographers chose to photograph her tattoos rather than her as an entire person.

Actually, when a model has that many tattoos, it’s pretty much useless to try to hide them, as they become another element in themselves. So, I set out to make a photo of Nemesis that would show her as a whole but would integrate the tattoos into the image, too.

I think I succeeded with the photo you see at the top. Dave’s studio had a couple of flexible mirrors so I decided to use one to capture Nemesis from both sides, including the big wolf tattoo on her back. I wanted more than a mirror shot, though, and sought to connect her figure to the one in the reflection. After some time spent with Nemesis balancing precariously on one foot trying to get a good position, we finally got it right. As I think you can see, the image is more interesting with the tattoo on her back than it would be without it. (Nemesis is also seen in photo #2.)

On my other day there, I photographed two other models – Charlye Rayne and Psyrotica (known to her friends, so I’m told, as Rotty). I was scheduled to work with Charlye for a few hours in the morning and then with the two together in the afternoon. The morning session went well, working with available light and no strobes, (photo #3) but as Charlye had not eaten any breakfast and needed (so she said) to have a big lunch, the two of us ended up spending two hours chowing down at the Spaghetti Warehouse in beautiful downtown Dayton!

This left only about an hour or so for my afternoon photo session with the two models, but I tried to make the most of it by using the mirrors and some other items on hand in the studio (photos 4 and 5). As these were flexible mirrors that curved, I decided to use them to get some unusual effects (a la Andre Kertesz). At one point I even noticed an upside down reflection and somehow managed to get it on film!

Although it was a short trip in which I had to work in a less than ideal setting and had one photo session severely curtailed by a long lunch, I think the trip was worthwhile. Of course, I got to spend time with a friend, too. In fact, I returned to Ohio a year and a half later to do some outdoor shooting (I’ll write about that another time) and am planning to make a third visit fairly soon. I want to thank my friend Dave L once again for his continued friendship and hospitality.

However, I have to say that after two trips there and a third in the works, I still really don’t know anything about Ohio!

About Dave Rudin

Dave Rudin is a fine art photographer based in Brooklyn, New York. He specializes in art nude and travel photography, using black & white film and making silver gelatin prints in a darkroom.
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