Tableau: Family Portrait

I set up my first complex tableau photo shoot, based on the concept of wilful blindness, or seeing the unseen. Wilful blindness can be an act of pretending something that is uncomfortable, or threatening is simply not there. I hope that this photograph demonstrates that concept. In this photo, three siblings are posed for a family portrait while a table, set for dinner, blazes unseen in the background.

This was a challenging photograph for me in few different ways: My siblings are spread across 4 time zones and two continents are see each other once a year, so I needed to be ready to go with this shot when they arrived at my house. I planned this photograph out over about a month, trying out different sites and looks. I made a decision to burn a table as it had to be something that definitely did not look like a bonfire or campfire. My husband built a table out of old wood, and I purchased flowers, a plastic vase and paper tablecloths on Amazon.

The major potential hazard of this project was the unplanned spread of the fire. I mitigated the risk by placing four 5 gallon buckets of water and a fire-extinguisher next to the site. My husband started, then managed the fire.

The lighting sources were a set of work-lights, a high intensity LCD flashlight as a spot and the headlights of a pick-up truck.

Overall, the look I was going for was slightly surreal with a simple color scheme. I was inspired by the work of Gregory Crewdson who creates complex and cinema-like tableau.

I was pleased with the timing of the burn and the quality of the image. I can see the set table in the background. I might have posed us a bit differently if I had to do this again.

The pallets that made the table burned strongly, and we had to end the shoot to put the fire out. I did get a few more unplanned shots:

I am planning my next family tableau and will use a bit more light, such a speed-light, for effect next time.

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