Don’t Copy Others, Even if it’s Yourself!
A couple of years ago my family and I were vacationing in a small village on the coast of England and the only preparations I had made to photograph there was to bring along a white bed sheet.
The Story of the White Bed Sheet
I had recently photographed ghosts at Auschwitz-Birkenau and wondered if I could carry this theme over to other historical sites. The trip to England seemed perfect with all its history and castles so readily available. But this time I thought, instead of relying on the unsuspecting tourists to play the role of ghost, I would control my subjects a bit more by using my daughter Mason. And so we brought a white bed sheet to transform her into a ghost.
We photographed at many sites and sometimes the ghost was the prime focus of the image while other times it was only a small element of the image, as in “Old Wardour Castle” above.
We experimented with different “ghosting” techniques and settled on the “30-second spin.” Mason would stand in one spot and spin for 30 seconds. Initially it was hard because she would get dizzy and start to drift, but she soon mastered it and became and excellent ghost.
Generally the castles were pretty deserted and only occasionally did we run into other tourists. Imagine this scene: your walking around an ancient castle when you come across someone in a white sheet spinning around! The parents were generally too reserved to act interested or to ask what we were doing, but their children would watch and giggle.
I didn’t really care for this series much and learned an important lesson from the experience. The ghost idea worked at Auschwitz-Birkenau because I felt inspired to do it and because it had purpose there, but at the castle it seemed merely a cheap gimmick. I was trying to capitalize on a “technique” rather than find new inspiration.
But alas it was not a wasted effort! I did get this one image that I really like, my daughter and I have a great memory and I learned an important lesson; don’t copy others, even if it’s yourself!
P.S. This article was published in my newsletter on 5/6/2012. Are you getting my newsletter? If not, you may sign up here.