Chess Portraits is the name of a series of images by Francesco Ridolfi, an Italian fine art photographer who uses chess pieces and the D1 monolight to explore the duality of human nature.
“Chess Portraits is a personal project of mine”, says Francesco. “It’s not something a client asked me to do. I just had this reoccurring idea of humanizing the pieces of a chess board. Inside each and everyone of us there are opposing forces that pulls us in different directions. There’s brightness and darkness. Good and evil. Black and white. My idea was to use chess pieces to explore this dualism.”
How did the project evolve from idea to planned shoot?
“Like I said, this was a personal project, so it was up to me and my team to take care of all the details – designing the costumes, researching what fabrics to use, creating the objects, casting the models, planning the shoot, the post production, everything! It was all very interesting, but what really got me excited was the opportunity to explore the duality I mentioned before. I was intrigued by the possibility to put each character under a different light, so to speak!”
What light is that? In other words, what set up did you use?
“Chess Portraits consists of two series of images: blacks and whites. The characters dressed in black were all lit the same way, and so was all the characters dressed in white. In other words, I used only two set ups for the entire project, and to be honest they were very much alike. I pretty much just modified the power output, removed the grid on the main light for the characters dressed in white, and switched between a black and a white backdrop.
“I used five D1 monolights in total. The D1 is my go-to flash. It’s reliable and easy to use. As far as Light Shaping Tools goes, I used a Beauty Dish on my main light, another Beauty Dish on the background, two gridded Softbox RFi 1.3×2′ for my rim lights and a Giant Silver for fill.
Considering that you and your team had to take care of all the details yourself, which was the hardest part?
“I’d say the hardest part was to find the right model for each character. It actually took me a couple of months to find what I was looking for. But I think it turned out really well in the end. I’m really,really pleased with the final results!”