Film noir; downbeat stills, “hopeless” infused with sexual insinuation and self-reflexive humor

Film noir; downbeat stills, “hopeless” infused with sexual insinuation and self-reflexive humor

As a photographer I am intrigued by “ Film noir”, a term used to describe stylish crime and drama particularly those that emphasize cynical attitudes and sexual motivations as seen in movies such as “the big sleep, 1946”. Whether film noir qualifies as a distinct style or genre is a matter of many ongoing debates.  Whatever the outcome of those ever lasting debates is, remains completely irrelevant to me as a photographer. I was inspired and keen to shoot a “film noir” still.




Selecting the theme

Film noir encompasses a range of plots. Selecting one for still photography isn’t that easy, however the idea of a law-abiding citizen lured into a life of crime, or simply a victim of circumstance is kind of interesting.

I settled for the “Femme fatal” as it is a character type conventionally identified with Film noir.


Creating the style

Film noir is very often associated with a low-key B&W visual style, that emphasizes low key lighting and unbalanced compositions.Classic noirs take often place in small towns or suburbia. So why not shooting at night in the streets of Oudenaarde. It’s winter and cold, very few people on the streets.  Sounded like a great idea to me, the only two remaining things to consider were the Light set-up and the model itself.Low-Key lighting schemes with stark light/dark contrast and dramatic shadow patterning, a style known as Chiaroscuro might just do the trick. I even considered a partially or wholly by darkness obscured face. After all it is not a glamour session.



 Setting the scene.

Crime and booze, usually murder, is an element of almost all films noir; in addition to standard-issue greed and jealousy involving adulterous affairs.  The choice, a hardboiled femme fatale, gun, booze and an essentially pessimistic scene trapped in unwanted situations uncaring fate, and doomed. Depicting a world that is inherently corrupt, with moral ambiguity, nor shame or redemption. A downbeat still, “hopeless” infused with sexual insinuation.



Now that i got all the ingredients together, it was time for reality. Sharon a fashion and glamour model and old friend of the house ,was so kind to work with me although it was freezing cold that night.  While Sharon was taken care of by the make-up artist, I packed the van. Shortly after we arrived in the center of the city. Parked on the marked place and unloaded the packs and lights, while Sharon stayed in the warm van awaiting my sign “ OK lets shoot”.


It was so cold that my fingers became stiff, difficult to trigger and gloves certainly would not make it easier.  Sharon did a great job while moving in open toes stilettos from location to location, those are the moments when I love my Cater Pillar boots.  Shooting next to the Police station was thrilling, especially since Sharon carried a gun and a bottle of good old whiskey. I expected any moment a bullying  “ Drop that gun !”.  I guess it was to cold for them to bother and patrol.  Finally we ended up with ice-cold toes and fingers. A hot cup of chocolate revamped the mood, happy and satisfied we completed the shoot.



Model Sharon Vandenabeele.

Thanks for reading,



One thought on “Film noir; downbeat stills, “hopeless” infused with sexual insinuation and self-reflexive humor

  1. Pingback: Film noir; downbeat stills, “hopeless” infused with sexual insinuation and self-reflexive humor | Shooting Phase One

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