|Photographer connects with a master of light
|This recreation of “The Betrayal of Christ,” by Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio (1571-1610) is one of a sequence of photographs by art major Leivur Djurhhus ’12. The Baroque Series, inspired by a class assignment, was seen in its entirety at the Senior Art Exhibition this spring.
In his bid to understand more about the Baroque, Leivur Djurhuus ’12 has created a series of dramatic photographs that have drawn recognition on and off campus. This semester, the art major’s recreations of masterworks by Caravaggio garnered two gold ADDYs in the communications industry award program.
Bush Art Center sees the remaking of a Caravaggio masterpiece. >>MORE
Djurhuus’ first models were classmates who shared an interest in his process. More recently, he has sought his cast of characters via Tweet or Facebook post. Recruiting is not hard to do: His fellow students are fascinated by the work, and every one of his models has wanted to return for a subsequent project.
Before the shoot, Djurhuus studies the painting he has chosen to recreate and gathers simple props and costumes, scouring thrift and craft shops as well as seeking help from April Beiswenger (Theatre Studies). His models don’t need make-up: Those effects are taken care of in post-production, using Photoshop.
The process is not completely literal. Djurhuus aims for the spirit of the original, paying attention to mood, light and composition. “I try to have a mental image of what [my final photo] will look like. Once the models are in place and the cameras hooked up, I usually don’t look back, and I just go from there.”
Lighting assistance and a great deal more is provided by Rodrigo Villalobos ’12. One reason it’s a dynamic process, Villalobos says, is that Djurhuus is always ready to listen to suggestions, so his models become truly engaged not only in their own role but in a good outcome overall. Villalobos, a photographer himself, provides a second set of eyes as Djurhuus gets busy with the shoot. “He does a lot of stuff that I don’t even know about,” says Djurhuus. “I trust him completely.”
Djurhuus’ interest in Caravaggio was piqued in a painting class when the Rev. Jim Neilson, O.Praem., ’88 asked students to explore the technique of various artists. He was intrigued to learn that the master was very much a rebel. He lived with the people of the streets; his models were usually homeless people to whom he would give bread in payment for their studio time.
As a photographer, Djurhuus relishes the challenge of recreating Caravaggio’s use of chiaroscuro for dramatic effect. “I want to be able to tell a story that also was told in the 1600s, because it was relevant back then and it is also relevant today.” And he adds, “I really like the fact that his paintings don’t glorify the torturous aspects of what happened to these religious figures.” The master’s subject matter is a focus for Djurhuus’ own academic exploration of the uncomfortable nexus that exists between, on the one hand, religious scenes intended as a focus for devotion and, on the other, the depictions of human cruelty and torture that often accompany them.
July 8, 2012