Pasties and a Dumpster in Brooklyn

Sometimes you have to work really hard to make an interesting portrait. Other times, you get to photograph Emilie Autumn.

Emilie is a classically trained violinist who has the rare musical gift of perfect pitch. She’s been through a lot in her life, including spending time in – as she puts it – an insane asylum. She has toured with Courtney Love, worked with Billy Corgan, and released three solo albums and a series of EPs. Her lyrics are dark, but she doesn’t take herself too seriously. Her stage show is fun, sexy, and ridiculous.

I met up with Emilie on her tour stop in Brooklyn to do a portrait for Kerrang Magazine. In one of our pre-production emails, she asked me, “What do you think of rats?” Unfortunately, her pet rat turned out to be sick so she didn’t bring him on the road this time.

Instead, at Emilie’s suggestion, we decided to photograph her in her stage outfit – including the pasties – while climbing out of a dumpster.

(Nikon D3, 70-200, 1/125, f/4, iso 320)

With a shot like that, there’s no need to go overboard with lighting. I had two Nikon SB900’s in a softbox for the main light, and two SB800’s on the sides and slightly behind to create a separating rim light. The hardest part was moving the dumpster into the alleyway so that it was lined up properly with the construction site in the background.

After we got enough of those shots, we moved over to the blue wall across the street. I did a straight up glamour shot using the Orbis ringflash on an SB800.

(Nikon D3, 24-70, 1/250, f/5.6, iso 400)

Near the end, I traded screams with her to really bring out some emotion. The construction workers walking by didn’t know what to make of a photographer screaming back and forth with a pink-haired woman wearing heart-shaped pasties.

(Nikon D3, 24-70, 1/250, f/4.5, iso 400)

From what I could tell, they didn’t seem to mind. And neither did Emilie.