CREEK I make sure I dont know anything, Lady
Ostapeck says of her approach to the technical side of photography.
is a bit of an overstatement for the woman whose easily recognizable
style has made her portraits among the best know photographic work
in Otsego County over the past quarter century.
knows composition and she is precise in printing. But she wants no
part of the high-tech world of modern photography fast film,
huge lenses, 35mm cameras with motor drives that click off multiple
images in a fraction of a second.
prefers the slow pace of another time, both in the equipment she uses
and the image she produces.
uses a 4 x 5 studio view camera of a vintage older than herself (she
was born in 1918) and a lens dating back to 1901. When doing the stylized,
period portraits for which she is best known, she may take only five
or six pictures.
shots are even maddingly slow. They are taken in natural light. Her
exposures are always done on a 20-count, requiring subjects to sit
still for a third of a minute.
that absolute stillness matters all that much to her: Sharp
pictures, they kill you, she says. Sometimes my pictures
are not good but they are gentle. Theyre covered with a gauze
in sharp focus capture everything, often showing too many flaws, she
planning a portrait, she spends a great deal of time in viewing the
subject, drawing out dreams and fantasies. (What did you want
to be when you were growing up? What is your favorite
time in history? What country would you want to visit?).
they decide on a costume from the elaborate collection from her crowded
studio, which is filled with beads, gilded chairs, elaborate hats,
bird cages, and all manner of oddities.
black-and-white portraits are done in a rich sepia tone, which contributes
to the flavor of another time. Dont ask her to do color. She
resists that and other attempts make her work more commercial.
what person and time would she chose if she were sitting for a Lady
have no idea, she says initially, but quickly revises with a
tale of her long-standing fascination with Eleanor of Aquitaine, the
strong-willed 12th Century woman who was at various times, queen of
Louis VII of France and Henry II of England.
went on the Crusades for fun, Lady Ostapeck says.
similarities begin to come into focus.