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Having always used handheld cameras with a photojournalistic style (after my favorite -- W.Eugene Smith), I felt compelled to follow a more serious approach to photography.
In 1989, I was lucky enough to purchase a used 4x5 field camera. The camera forced a change in my standard approach. It required a tripod and careful set-up to produce the images I was after. Dozens of times I would set up the camera, only to decide the angle, or placement, or framing (or all three) were wrong. I'd start over.
Even though I had been photographing for over 18 years, I felt the need for a patient subject. One that would sit still while I adjusted (and re-adjusted) the movements of the camera I was learning to use. The new style and format were a radical departure.
In searching for my "patient subjects", I was drawn to a small statue in my own back yard in St. Louis. It was a concrete angel, about 15 inches tall, seated on an old stone monument base.
Setting up the camera for the first images, the statue was very patient. At 20 inches off the ground, it was a challenge finding the right spot for the camera. After several hours of framing, moving, re-setting the tripod, and re-adjusting the camera movements, I made my first two 4x5 negatives.
Then I repositioned the camera for a second angle. This time it only took about a half hour before I was ready to make the next two negatives.
The angel patiently waited until the camera was placed, aimed in her direction, and the set-up was complete. To this day I think this photo is one of the best in the series.
After that first attempt, I realized the most plentiful source of patient subjects was the statue collection of Belfontaine Cemetery in St. Louis. A theme was born: stone angels.
The angels would wait forever, rain or shine. And they looked different morning and evening. I began to search them out at various locations. It didn't take long to find how plentiful they were. I now have hundreds of angelic images, from the US and Europe.
Revised: August 19, 2015
Copyright © J.R.Schoppman, Angelic Images