Magdalene, photo by Harold Davis. View this image larger.

The human face is capable of infinite variety. When the expression changes, or the angle of view, the whole context of the face can change.

Lighting changes the contours of a landscape—a mountain looks very different at sunset than at sunrise. In the same way when you change the quality or direction of lighting the appearance of a face also changes.

In all its infinite variety, a photo of a face can also become a vessel for our projections about a person and what they are feeling.

For example, another photo of this model makes it seem clear that she is a down-to-earth, sensuous person. However, this portrait shows an almost religious and devotional aspect. I think of the pairing of intense devotion with carnality as the Mary Magdalene look.

Shot through a gauze curtain (it took a fair amount of post-processing to “iron” some of the wrinkles out) using a single strobe to the left and above the model. Exposure data: 200mm, 1/160 of a second at f/11 and ISO 100, hand held.

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