Revisiting my Photograph from the Summer

For our final surprise brief of sorts we were tasked to revisit the photograph that we had to take before leaving for Falmouth. Which could be of a anything that I love most about living in Sheffield. I decided to take a candid shot of my best friend whilst we were sat on the grass at our local park. As one thing I knew I would miss most was spending time with her after work in the evenings. 

Looking back I definitely have developed a lot as a photographer although I still have a very long way to go. I had no idea about a lot of technical things, I wasn't shooting in RAW and I think my general eye and approach is much better now. 

I was hoping that my decision to specialise in press and editorial photography would make more sense to me once I started studying the course and in many ways it has. I am really interested in curation and writing about contemporary art which the course is allowing me to do, but I am still not sure what I want to do with my own photographic work and how much I want it to form and serve my professional identity. What I do know is that I am getting better at using my medium and I have already made money from it since starting this course which has lifted my spirits and given me a new sense of purpose. 

I am both anxious and excited to venture into the world of analogue photography but I look forward to the challenges the New Year brings. 


Female Portraiture Shoot

After reflecting on Mike Trow's talk and learning how British Vogue produce their shoots I wanted to try doing more planning for my next shoot which was for my female portraits. My model for this shoot was first year graphic design student Eleanor Smith and I went to shoot my portraits of her in and around the studios that she works in. In order to get some detail and environmental shots of her working and around her studio space. I briefly planned out my shots beforehand and I also explored the location with my subject before taking my portraits of her, and I discussed with her the kind of portraits I was intending to create of her. I felt that this planning really helped me visualise my final four images better and also made my subject more comfortable as she felt she had more purpose when posing for the photographs because she knew what I wanted to capture in my shots.

Above is a mood board/contact sheet of all my favourite photographs from the shoot which I then has to edit down for my four final images of my female subject. Again I didn't feel as though I needed to reshoot as I felt I had a good variety of shots that reflected my subject well as a person. 

I chose this for my detail shot in the end as I like the detail that you can see in my subject's hands in this photograph. She has a skin condition which is visible in the photographs but you can also see how she holds her pencil and the amount of tension she has in her hands when she is working. Which I think is important to show as she works with her hands a lot being a designer. 

This was my favourite photograph from the shoot as I love how relaxed my subject looks. I will be using it as my environmental portrait as she is stood beside the information boards in the design studios.

Environmental, Observed, Detail, Formal
Above are my final four portraits for my female subject. I am happy with these photographs although I am worried that visually they are not that consistent together. I am still considering the order of these photographs although I think my environmental shot will definitely go first as I feel it is my strongest photograph out of the four.


Male Portraiture Shoot

For my first shoot in the portraiture part 2 project I photographed my male subject who is Billy Brookes, a photography student here at Falmouth University. I am happy with these photographs and the way I have dealt with the light and also composition in my images, so all I need to do now is edit them down to the four I will present as my final images of a male subject. 

The day we arranged for the shoot ended up having extremely heavy rain so instead of shooting around Falmouth like I planned, I decided to take him to Tremough House and the walled harden here on campus. I felt the old interiors of Tremough house would help reflect my subject's personality as he considers himself to have been born in the wrong era. The lighting ended up being really beautiful in there and I used a flashgun to light up the other side of his face when taking shots of him sat by the window. 

A lot of the poses do seem strange in the photographs I have picked out as my favourites but I am drawn to these kinds of shots as they say a lot more about my subject's character. Which I really wanted to try and capture in between him posing for photographs. Very much inspired by Dijkstra and Arbus' approaches to taking portraits. 

Environmental, Detail, Observed, Formal
Above are my final four images that I have chosen for my male portraits. I decided to choose ones that I felt reflected both the more serious and playful to my subject's personality. My favourite photograph is the environmental portrait as I really like my subject's expression, the richness of warm colours in the photograph and also the composition with all the lines and square shapes breaking up the image. 

British Vogue: 'A Change of Heir' + Picture Editor Mike Trow Talk

After a talk from British Vogue Picture Editor Mike Trow last week I decided to read an article that he mentioned, that really got me thinking about other ways I could be approaching this portraiture project. Since 2005 Mike Trow has been responsible for commissioning, production and art direction of most of the portraits, reportage and house shoots for British Vogue. He detailed his responsibilities in the talk which really revealed to me how much goes into these editorial shoots that Vogue commission themselves. The amount of location planning and production Trow described, which is talked through with a large team and the editor, gave real insight into how shoots are conducted for a magazine such as Vogue. 

Trow also discussed how important mood boards are in editing photographs for print. Which made me think a lot more about how I could be utilising contact sheets more to deal with images in bulk rather going through my photographs one by one in Bridge. 

An article called 'A Change of Heir', in the December 2016 issue of British Vogue was shown and discussed by Trow in his talk. The article made it apparent to me that Vogue isn't just about fashion and product photography, and that they also feature portraits of celebrities and figures that may be of interest to their audience. In looking through the photographs in this article, which were mostly taken by Tung Walsh, I found that despite being single portraits used of each person that they are really effective in creating a narrative of the person in them. They are incredibly well considered shots that are taken against backdrops relevant to that specific person's character and career. 

In reference to this article Trow talked about what is necessary to create great portrait photographs, which I really want to apply to my own professional practice. First he said that you should find out what your subject likes and take an interest in them. Having a deeper understanding of what makes them who they are is key in making a compelling portrait representing their character. Which is something I have been aware of but never taken a proactive approach in when planning my photographs. Trow also said that consistency with a unique viewpoint is important in your photographs, as having a distinct style is what will define your work and also make you a more appealing investment for brands. As they can get a sense of what kind of images you will produce for them. 

As I am to create a set of four images to represent each of my subjects I really want to make an effort to plan how I can best represent who these people are in my photographs. In trying to achieve a formal, observed and environmental portrait as well as a detail shot, I want to achieve consistency in my images and form a narrative if possible of different parts of my subject's personality and interests.


Mankichi Shinshi: Elimination Method

I don't like a person who is in groups; I like a person who is alone. So I take photos of lonely people as the center of the world.

In cases where the person is with someone, I capture them in a moment when they appear as if alone. Then, everyone comes to seem like a precious presence, an important being.

Call it arrogant, but when I look at these scenes, forcibly collected and brought together, I feel as if I could become good friends with any one of the people I have photographed.

Maybe this is how to get on and get by in this world—by a method of elimination.

—Mankichi Shinshi

Whilst reading some photography blogs the other day I came across a really inspiring post on a series called Elimination Method by Japanese photographer Mankichi Shinshi. His work consists of documentary, street and travel photography however the way he captures people in his photographs has given me even more I feel I should consider, when taking my own observed and environmental shots of my subjects. 

Elimination Method is an ongoing street photography collection by Shinshi in which his photographs capture people alone or isolated from a crowd in public places in Asia. Shinshi's photographs are all taken at a distance and capture scenes any of us could witness in public. However Shinshi describes that revealing these objective observations is not the purpose of his photography and instead his images are all about the contact point between society and his own life. In that these scenes are all about how he witnesses them through his own viewpoint. Shinshi describes that distance also factors into his photographs slightly as there is a grey area in terms of restrictions to take street photographs in Japan. However he also says that he stops photographing people when they do notice him as the picture will no longer be of interest to him if they are conscious of him observing and photographing them.

Visually I think these images are really special because they capture the distinctive colours in the urban landscapes of Japan, which gives more a sense of cultural identity to these environmental/observed portraits of strangers. The way the environment helps inform us more about the subjects in the photographs I find really intriguing as it reveals to me that there is more to capturing humanity then just photographing humans, and these images to me suggest that the environment is just as important as the person in the photograph. Therefore what you choose as the background and how you frame it, can have just as big an impact on how a portrait image is read by an audience.

The way Shinshi manages to isolate people in busy environments I think is really skillful especially with the more voyeuristic way he takes his photographs. They remind me of some of the photographs from Alex Prager's Face in The Crowd series which unlike Shinshi's photographs were staged and carefully planned out images. Whereas Shinshi's photographs are unstaged which I think is quite interesting because they explore the notion that public spaces are in fact stages to a certain extent. As people tend to present themselves differently in public in comparison to if they were alone at home.                        

Face in the Crowd, Alex Prager
Shinshi says he feels as though his subjects are his friends. Which I think shows the patience and awareness he has in capturing these people lost in their own worlds. It has made me realise that a real amount of patience and consideration is necessary to take a powerful portrait photograph. Looking at Shinshi's photographs has made me think a lot more about the environmental portraits I will be taking and how I can frame and capture my subject within different locations.

Rineke Dijkstra

Odessa, Ukraine, 1993

Forte de Casa, Portugal, 2000

Tiergarten Berlin, Germany, 1999

Kora Tiergarten Berlin, Germany, 2000

'It's like what Diane Arbus said, you are looking for the "gap between intention and effect". People think that they present themselves one way, but they cannot help but show something else as well. It's impossible to have everything under control.' This 'gap between intention and effect' 
Whilst looking at portraiture in books the other day I came across a beautiful portrait by Dutch photographer Rineke Dijkstra so decided to look more closely at her work. Dijkstra's work centers very much on portrait photography which she often creates series of. Her most well known series of work is Beach Portraits (1992-94) and The Buzz Club (1995). 

Rineke Dijkstra approaches portraiture as social documentary photography. Using her large scale colour portraits which focus very much on posture, gesture and clothing which allow us to see differences in the cultural identities of the people across different locations she photographs. Her work also shows a fascination Dijkstra has with people in the midst of significant personal transitions as many of her images are of adolescents, she has a series of portraits of new mothers and also one  showing male and female Israeli soldiers. 

The Buzz Club Liverpool
I grew particularly interested in Dijkstra's approach especially when looking at The Buzz Club series which she took in a club in Liverpool with a makeshift studio. The portraits were taken of adolescents against a white background, revealing to us how hold they hold themselves as Dijkstra often captures people preparing to be photographed before they have started to pose. I think this simplistic way of photographing these adolescents is really potent in the way it represents those in this youth culture without mocking them. There is something that feels affectionate towards them in the way they have been photographed. As these people are normally thought of as being in large groups and here they are isolated against this negative space as Dijkstra wants to represent them as individuals. 

I think it is really interesting the effect of framing the subjects in this way consistently for this series. As it allows us to notice similarities between these people of the same youth culture such as their clothing. Which in particular on the women becomes a kind of uniform as you notice the similar black and white, skimpy clothes they are wearing. The focus on individual self presentation in the images is really interesting to me, especially when you put them together as there is something particularly emotive about viewing these people in this vulnerable way. In knowing that they are usually contained in a group. This awareness Dijkstra shows in her photographs of individual uniqueness which she captures beautifully, shows how people like Diane Arbus have influenced her work. Who was patient in waiting to capture a moment where their subject was unposed and off guard. This awareness of her subject to get shots like this I find really inspiring and I hope in my own photographs to capture subjects more off guard to capture more of a sense of who they are when they don't think anyone is paying attention to them.

Isabel, Berlin, 1998
The above portrait I came across online that is one of my favourites of Dijkstra's. I have tried to find out if this is part of a series of hers but I couldn't find any information on it which is a shame. I did however want to talk about this picture because I do think it is a particularly special portrait. She has managed to capture in this image the kind of moment that I previously described in Nadars portraits which were 8 minute exposures. He managed to show these extended periods of thought in his subjects which Dijkstra has managed to similarly show in this much shorter exposed image.

What I do think is really powerful in this image is that this is clearly a young girl but there is a real sense of maturity we get through this deep expression she has. Her eyes are wide open but it is as though she isn't actually looking at anything and is instead deep within her own head. Visually this is also a really soft image with Isabel's hair fading into the white background showing again this sense of affection that Dijkstra seems to have in capturing her subjects. I think that the soft focus on the background is really effective in letting Isabel's world fill the scene she is sat in, as she appears so introspective in the same way we are looking straight at her and her character.

Looking at Dijkstra's work has really allowed me to think about representing people in even more ways. Such as by focusing on identities and self presentation and how this may change over time. The way her images demand our attention and reward us the longer we look at them is so powerful and something I would love to get an eye for in taking my own portrait photographs. She has also given me a lot to think about in terms of having awareness as a photographer, in being able to step back and let your subject reveal more of themselves to you without having to force it and seek it directly yourself. I think its made me realise that portraiture is not just something that has to be staged to be successful and it transcends to many other genres of photography, in being all about observation and finding the decisive moment.