Off camera flash



The Miguelete Jail was inaugurated in 1888 and functioned as such until 1990.
It was built on the model of an English prison in Pentonville, which had been built in 1840 and consisted of 4 pavilions with 3 floors and 30 cells each. It was the first prison in Latin America to use the panopticon architectural model. This concept responds to a design that allows the guard to observe all prisoners without them being able to know if they are being seen. Beyond the physical aspect, this model seeks to generate the sensation of omnipresent control.

Isarrualde Photography

Model : Cinthia Amorín

The prison was closed on October 21, 1986, although it remained a juvenile detention center until 1990. In 2008 it was decided to house the Contemporary Art Space project as the first stage of a building recovery process, and immediately began the refurbishment works. The site has about 10,000 m2 of constructed area and in this phase about 1,200 m2 can be toured, on two levels. The first stage of work affected one of the four wings of the building, and from the first floor of the EAC one can appreciate the contrast with the third level, which remains in its original state as well as the panopticon and the remaining three radios.



But the photo session took place in one of the spokes of the panopticon that was preserved in its original state. The cell area remained intact and seemed to me to be the best location for the practice as the clothes were black, with simple lines and very geometric. Once again I had clothes from Valentina de Llano‘s collection that worked very well for the session. It was a Strobist technique class that I taught in Montevideo, Uruguay, last December, with the support of Fundación Unión.

Irina Raffo

© Irina Raffo
Irina Raffo

© Irina Raffo

For the realization of the image that starts the post it was very important that the direct sunlight entered the cell in a forceful, hard, almost “biblical” in the aesthetic sense of so many religious canvases. We were fortunate that the class was held at a convenient time and we started with this photograph. The important thing was to measure the ambient light so as not to lose the character of the natural light and then adjust the flash light to those values. When the light inside the cell was adequate, the outside courtyard was burnt, overexposed, so I decided to use a tripod to shoot a series of photographs with the same aperture but different speeds in order to achieve the correct exposure for the outside.
The model was positioned in a symmetrical attitude as I felt it suited the image I was looking for and lit from below the plane of her eyes. This location of the main light source is unnatural because we associate natural with how we see sunlight and we never see sunlight below our horizon. Therefore, this location was going to give the resulting photo a strange, unnatural, theatrical, disturbing character. I placed a Bowens Beauty Dish at the model’s knees with a Fomex adapter that I later had to erase in post production.


Beauty Dish from Bowens

The light from the Beauty Dish was a little harsh so I put a diffuser in front of the disc. At the time of firing I had the flash sync with a Pocket Wizard transmitter and receiver. The important thing about this shot was that the flash was at Ratio 0 in relation to the ambient light.
Irina Raffo

© Irina Raffo

Another photograph was taken in the central nave of one of the pavilions and here the light conditions were quite different from those in the first cell.

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I wanted to take a less bright picture and for this I used a small window, very close to the model, underexposing the background. In the same vessel, I took a third photograph, but in an area where there was a little more light coming in from the side cells.

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The light levels were very low and I decided to use a large window very close to the model. Here I also worked with a tripod to be able to remove the window later in post production.

© Federico Decuadro

The fourth image was taken in a large cell where the light was very nice, but generated a very high contrast.

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There it was only necessary to use a large window as a fill light, a couple of points below the natural light values. The Godox Octa softbox was placed to the right of the frame.

© Federico Decuadro

Finally we went out into the courtyard, where there was an area of very lush, tall greenery that coincided with the falling of the afternoon light. There I used a white reflection umbrella from the same direction where the natural light was coming from, and the contrast was lowered with a reflector on the opposite side. I shot with a high speed to underexpose the background and thus achieve a more intimate light around the model.

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© Federico Decuadro

The help of the students, the professionalism of the model, the make up and hairstyle of the make up artist and the styling of the designer are indispensable.

You can see a video of the making of the session made by my dear friend Luis Varela, in the following link:

“Making of” Cárcel de Miguelete © Federico Decuadro

Make-up and hair styling: Roxana Porro
Production : Irina Raffo
Post production first image : Flo Tucci

Lighting scheme of a session in the former migulelete prison, in Montevideo, Uruguay, as part of a professional strobist photography course. Lighting scheme


All rights reserved. © Isarrualde Photography
Reproduction in whole or in part without the written consent of the author is prohibited.

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