Beneath It All
"It is my belief, and I feel quite strongly that the human body is an exquisite thing to contemplate. I choose to celebrate this appreciation of the unique beauty that I find in the human form."... Shaun M. Niles
Shaun has been working on the “Beneath It All” project since August 2018. What began as a test shoot, with art model Josh Humble, to evaluate film stocks has evolved into a long term project presenting a contemporary perspective on art nudes and figure studies of the early to mid 20th century. Drawing influence from the nude work of photographers Imogen Cunningham, George Platt Lynes, Ed, Kim, and Brett Weston, Ruth Bernhard, Helmut Newton, and most notably Alfred Cheney Johnston, the project is an homage to the artists, genre, and styles that have inspired Shaun over the years.
Early work on the project was created using large format view cameras and a series of medium format film cameras. Developing the film himself, scanning negatives into a digital format for retouching, and having prints produced on a silver halide paper, Shaun has combined old techniques with new in creating this body of work.
Now nearing its second year, Shaun will be branching the project out in two new directions. The first will be to include work with color negative film.
“I’ve always favored monochromatic images for their tonality and nostalgic qualities. I had seen some really wonderful color film work that inspired a bit of creative growth so I shot a few rolls of Kodak Portra just to see what would come of it. I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed the results and was convinced straight away that this needed to be an element of the project “… Shaun M. Niles
Shaun has already begun working to incorporate color prints into the project. The second phase, which is a little farther out, will be wet plate collodion work.
“I've had a long standing love affair with wet plate collodion and an admiration for its practitioners. There's something about the mystique and complexities of the process that draws me in and then watching a successful plate coming up in the fixer, it's really kind of magical. I’ve started compiling the gear and the chemistry to try my hand at it. I still need to build myself a mobile dark room, and there’s likely to be a bit of a learning curve for me but it’s on the horizon.” … Shaun M. Niles
Select pieces from the project have been included in group shows throughout 2019 and Shaun has hosted two solo exhibitions in his gallery at the Circle City Industrial Complex with plans for a third the summer of 2020. Shaun is most excited about a collaborative show with realist figurative painter Travis S. Little titled “By Two Hands” that will include the entire body of work from the Beneath It All project. Originally scheduled to open on Friday April 3rd, the event had to be rescheduled in response to guidance issued by the Indiana State Department of Health, in an effort to slow community transmission of the Coronavirus (COVID-19). Opening night for “By Two Hands” will be Friday November 6, 2020 in the Schwitzer Gallery of the Circle City Industrial Complex. Click here for more about that event.
You can find an up to date listing of Open Gallery Hours on Shaun's Facebook Events Page and the link below will take you to an online gallery with a small sampling of work from the project.
Prints from this body of work can be purchased directly from Shaun, all of the photographs are editioned and strictly limited to one original and two artists prints. The print sizes are either 16"x20" or 16"x16" depending upon the aspect ratio of the final crop.
Interested in staying up to date on what's happening with the project? Follow along on Facebook and Instagram. Work on the project will continue into a second year and Shaun is seeking new participants to create with. Come out and visit, see the work in person, meet Shaun in his studio, and for those of you interested, feel free to approach him about being photographed for the project. If you can't make it out to a First Friday event then reach out on social media or send an email to [email protected]