This image looks like an old master or oil painting, closer examination reveals that it’s actually a photograph, the image depicts a rowdy tavern scene in the style of the Dutch painter Adrjaen Brouwer. There are seven distinct groups of people in the image, each of which have been treated individually in terms of light.
This is probably one of my all-time favorite images I love the mood in the image of a rough tavern with everyone doing their own thing. I love the way Derek has made each subject so appropriately ugly as he puts it, even the pretty girl has stains appropriate to the scene on her clothes. The motion in the drunk is astounding it took me a long time to realize he was kneeling and not falling there is a feel created by the lighting that he is toppling over, the way the right leg is so dark and in shadow makes it almost disappear from the image and give the impression of an ungracious fall to the ground.
I don’t think I could name any part of this image I dislike from the dog and the still life on the table right through to each of the interplays between each character group I could stare at this image for ages.
I look at this image and I get a feeling of passion some of it angry and explosive and some of it flirtatious, I imagine a jolly melody being pumped out by the fiddler in the background as the serving made flirts with the old guy sitting to the left of the image. There is an interplay between the angry brute and the girl trying to restrain him as though she has some control over his actions. The drunk has clearly just got his next drink but is losing it to a stumble all over his shirt.
Probably the most important set of feelings is as I mentioned earlier that it feels like an old master, there is a painterly feel to it created by the amazing lighting set up that gives the chiaroscuro with deep shadows.
The focus of this image is a deep depth of field where everything is sharp, in an image like this a painter would not deliberately paint people out of focus so this is appropriate to the genre, and also there is a definite a deliberate separation between the background and each layer or group of people.
The colours and all in the brown tomes and give the feel of an old painting. Rich bright primary colours would ruin an image like this. The colour range and tones are perfect for the look and feel of old oil pint aged over a long period of time. I think that Derek’s choice of colour both in the set and the costumes is a huge factor in the appeal of this image and the stealthy way it kids you it’s an oil painting.
Lighting is the big secret in this image, it is by lighting that Derek has created a masterpiece, each subject in the image is lit separately using soft boxes and flash and tightly controlling the spill of light on each subject. Derek says that it is really important to have very strong control on the light as any spill over onto the next subject can ruin the effect he says that it is better to have less light than spill over which reinforces the deep shadows that are part of the chiaroscuro.
In this image the dark shadows are as important as the highlights in the action, the combination of deep shadows and bright spots created with small gridded soft boxes make this image quite dark, but that is OK because it is exactly the way it should be to recreate the style of Adrjaen Brouwer.
The composition of the image is very deliberate providing separation in the image which again helps with the chiaroscuro and adds a flow of a story through the whole image as the micro story lines intertwine to make the whole thing a noisy rowdy tavern.
This image is everything I love about photography, it has all the elements I want to produce myself, it is completely staged, it uses phenomenally cleaver lighting, there is infinite attention to the detail of costumes sets and props, and it has a treatment that firmly gives it a voice that has emerged as the voice of Derek Gallon. I have no desire to copy Derek’s work anymore than I do the other photographers I admire but I do want to create work with similar passion and attention to detail that can be said to contain my voice.
Overall this is a brilliant image, I know I am using that word a lot but this image stopped me dead the first time I saw it. As I said I could sit and stare at this forever, I would dearly love a huge version of it hanging in my office to remind me how good a photographer can be. It is no wonder Derek Gallon was awarded the prestigious honor of a Fellowship of the Royal Photographic Society (FRPS) as he is a genius in my opinion and I rarely find anyone who moves and inspires me as much as Derek with their work.