Thursday, 9 December 2010

Project 8: Varying pose (Part 1)

Having just spent some time looking at contemporary photographers using the 'simple' (it isn't really, when you consider what has been written around some of the work mentioned in the previous post) frontal pose, the next project is on the subject of varying pose!  The brief refers to the basic poses - standing, sitting, leaning, walking, squatting etc - but then asks one to also consider the variations within those e.g. the way that limbs are positioned, hands, twists and turns of the torso etc.

As suggested, I have looked through a few magazine and newspaper photographs and recorded just a selection of the variants used to pose subjects.

Sitting -  sideways in a dining chair, elbow on the back, head on hands, other hand draped over chair arm; perched on the corner of something e.g. desk.
Standing -  hands on a chair back, table or similar; arms half folded, but one arm free, with a finger under the chin; leaning, one hand on a kitchen work surface, other hand on hip (the teapot!).
Leaning -  over the back of a chair; onto a table - very common approach; against the frame(s) of a door.

I could go on; the variations are myriad.  One thing that does stand out, and it relates back to Rineke Dijkstra's teenagers on a a beach, is what to do with the hands when the subject is standing - pockets, clasped, on hip(s), folded arms, by sides, thumbs in belt/pants, behind back, hand on heart, combinations of these.  And another issue is that the use of hands can easily look false.

On that point, there was, coincidentally, a piece in the Times today about posing for photographs.  I can't do a link because the Times is subscription, but it was entitled 'The experts' guide to posing like Posh' and was apparently prompted by photo of Samantha Cameron besides Victoria Beckham at the British Fashion Awards.  The conclusion was that she had been 'out-posed' by 'Posh', and the article then lists comments from three 'experts' on how best to pose for photographs - the creative director of a popular womens magazine; a yoga teacher; and the Times fashion photographer.  The advice included 'the leg-out pose gives the hips the illusion of being thinner'; 'pulling your tummy in is pretty much a given'; 'The chin is important. Whether you've got none or too many ...'; and 'If you think about pulling your ears up, it activates muscles around your jaw and your neck to give you a mini lift, and makes your neck look taut and supple' (thinking about pulling my ears up makes me feel like I might be in agony and definitely not in the mood for having my picture taken!).  To be fair, some of the best advice comes from the photographer (Zac Frackleton), not least his comment that 'the best pictures of people are always taken by their nearest and dearest'.  (So, where are David's pictures of Posh, I wonder??)

To be serious, the 'pose' does, if one looks closely at so much celebrity imagery, appear to be closely related to yoga.  It seems to require the subject to take up the least natural, but apparently most flattering, body position.  I don't claim to have understood everything I've read of Michael Fried, but the 'pose' feels to fit perfectly into his 'theatrical' categorisation.  And the efforts of the photographers discussed in my previous post to avoid the 'pose' are perfectly 'anti-theatrical'.

Tomorrow, I have a photographic session organised with a subject that I know, Phyllis, and I have been thinking through variations on the standard sitting/standing poses, ones that I would associate with her, because I'm keen to ensure that the images I take look as 'unposed' as I can manage.

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