Wednesday, 20 October 2010

Project 01: Portrait, scale and setting

Project 01 was completed, 19/10/10, and these are the four images selected are below.

 Face, cropped in close
Project 01-1

 Head and shoulders
Project 01-2

Project 01-3

 Full figure
Project 01-4

In the close cropped image, the viewer's attention is very much focused on the features of the face, particularly the eyes.  We deliberately tried to go for a 'blank' expression, trying not to direct a viewer's reaction one way or another, but there is an inevitable tendency to try to 'read' the eyes, and also the mouth.  In this example, the lack of deliberate expression could easily be read negatively.  There is a 'coldness' about the stare and tight lips, which doesn't quite 'fit' with a 'softness' in the eyes.  I feel that the casual viewer would find him/herself flitting between eyes and mouth, looking for 'signals'.

The head & shoulders image still focusses the viewer on the facial features, primarily, and on the eye/mouth combination, but in this image, the angle of the head (though essentially the same as in the cropped image) comes into play to some degree.  The viewer senses the subject leaning back, head slightly cocked, which when combined with the tiniest hint of a smile, creates a more 'wry' and 'laid back' feeling.

Moving back for the torso image brings the background into view so that we can tell that the subject is on stairs, but that doesn't necessarily play a big part in the viewer's reading of the image.  The dark top means that the upper torso doesn't 'say' much either, and the hands are (deliberately, because we didn't see them having a natural position in this framing) out of sight.  The arms at the subject's side, and the more 'deliberate' smile, combined with this particular framing, give this version a more 'formal' look, and perhaps more sense that the subject is 'posing'.

Finally, the full figure image does confirm that the subject is sitting casually on a staircase, apparently in a domestic setting.  His 'expression' (or lack of it) is not dissimilar to that in the first image, apart from the angle of the head, and there could be the same feeling of 'coldness', but the domestic context, his casual dress, casual body stance, relaxed hands, and bare feet all confirm the casualness and informality of the portrait.

I have a few comments to add, relating to the portrait making process, which is very new, for me.
  • Careful communication with the subject needs practice.  I had done a fair amount of 'technical' preparation so as not to waste time during the session, but I could have been better prepared in terms of my 'directions'.
  • No amount of technical preparation will exclude the need to think on your feet e.g. getting light into my subject's eyes was harder than expected following the practice sessions because of the (inevitable) difference in facial structure.
  • I very deliberately went for a 'simple' lighting situation - chiefly from a single 'tungsten' source above and left of frame - but it led to some constraints on options for posing.
  • My intention was to take a studied approach, trying to visualise the shot before pressing the shutter, but one can easily get drawn into 'snapping' in the hope of capturing something.  I was certainly conscious of potentially been drawn in those two different directions.  The low light level meant that I couldn't have gone too 'happy snappy' though - fortunately!
A satisfactory start - and much learned - 'Many thanks' to Ed for his patience as my first 'victim'.

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