Article from photographer, teacher Phil Mistry at Petapixel
Even if you’re not a “film nerd”, you’ll recognize the iconic “Lady With the Torch” photo from Columbia Pictures. This photo was taken in 1991 by Kathy Anderson, a Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer, at her apartment in the New Orleans area.
The final version is a painting with more effects, but few people know that the original photo taken as a model was taken in a small apartment, with very simple props.
The story behind the legendary photo
The story of this photo begins when Anderson’s friend Michael J. Deas, a talented designer, is looking for ideas for stamp sets for the United States Postal Service. Ms. Anderson recalls: “Michael already had ideas for the set. To illuminate the model I used a Dynalite flash and Chimera diffuser to create a soft light.”
A few pictures Kathy Anderson took to model for a series of stamps designed by Michael Deas
At the time, Ms. Anderson was working at a newspaper called The Times-Picayune in New Orleans. She needed a model for the photo shoot, so she asked a colleague at the newsroom, Ms. Jenny Joseph.
On the day of the shoot, Michael J. Deas brought a box of croissants from his favorite French bakery, along with photography props including a bed sheet, blue sheet, and a small lamp with a shadow overhanging the top. on the top – used to replace the torch in the last picture.
Miss Jenny rests during the shoot, and is Anderson’s favorite photo
Ms. Anderson added about the shooting process: “After moving away from the living room dining table to turn the room into a ‘studio’, we hung up a gray canvas for the background and a few boxes to block the space. below, I put some Polaroid films into my Hasselblad camera to take a test shot.
In the pre-digital era, photographers often used Polaroid to take “test” shots before using official film. After viewing the polaroid, the white bed sheet was adjusted to fit Ms. Joseph, who will not be modeling again after this shoot.
“Jenny is wrapped in a white sheet, with a blue cloth across it. These components are meticulously arranged, lights are also used to accentuate Jenny’s folds and eyes.”
“During the shoot, Jenny asked for permission to rest for a few minutes. I also took a photo while she was sitting, and this is my favorite shot during the shoot. While talking while shooting, I just found out that she is pregnant. After congratulating her, we resumed shooting.”
“Lady with the torch” becomes iconic image
Ms. Anderson at the time had done a lot of modeling for Deas over the years, but “Lady With the Torch” was still her favorite photo and shoot.
A comparison of the drawings used by Columbia Pictures and the sample photos taken by Ms. Anderson shows that the designer has kept to the smallest detail. You can see the finger placement is almost the same, the blue cloth is placed a little lower than the girl’s shoulder, the bed sheet also has the same way of dropping to the ground.
Ms. Anderson added: “If Lady With Torch hadn’t become famous, it would still be my favorite photo. Every time I look at it, I’m reminded of a fun photo shoot with my friends. good friends and a perfect box of croissants.”
Ms. Anderson’s successful photography career
Kathy Anderson started her photography career in college, and quickly fell in love with the subject. She says she’s very lucky to have been born in a time when print was still in vogue, and has enjoyed a 28-year career at The Times-Picayune magazine. In 2006, her photograph of the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina earned her the Pulitzer Prize for Public Service.
Reverend George Walker Jr. standing among the ruins of St. Paul’s Church in New Orleans
Another famous photo of her shows Avery Alexander – a New Orleans state representative being arrested by police, holding his neck in 1993 while he was protesting against racism. In 2016, 23 years later, this photo was printed as a banner during the Black Lives Matter march to demand justice for black people.
Ms. Anderson hopes that viewers will feel emotions when viewing her photos, whether it is joy (for Lady With the Torch) or sadness (for Hurricane Katrina). “If I can evoke emotions in the viewer, then I have succeeded in photography.”