Sunday, 25 March 2012

Assignment 5 – more portraits

There has been some good progress with the assignment shoots over the last couple of weeks, with four more portraits made.  The two final ones that I need are due to be done next weekend.  I’m reasonable happy with how they are turning out.  I think my confidence in dealing with portrait sessions has developed a little.  I have continued to make a few technical mistakes but nothing that hasn’t been recoverable.  I get annoyed with myself when I forget something simple but there is a lot to think about when you put somebody ‘on the spot’ in front of your camera.  If you persuade someone to make themselves available to you for an hour or so, you have a sense of responsibility to make it come out as something decent; and these are friends, neighbours, relatives etc, not professional models, so you need to help them to be at ease.  I’ve tended to keep to the simple concept, as planned, which means I’m not asking them to do too much, but it takes a bit of care to ensure the subject looks relaxed and natural.  I’ve tried to not rush things; standing to one side of the camera, watching their facial expressions carefully, waiting for the right moment to press the remote release, and being prepared to wait quietly, just saying the odd word of encouragement/direction.  I know it feels odd for the subjects, but I think I’ve eventually got there with all of them – sometimes it’s been one of the first shots, sometimes the last, but I’m learning to be patient and relaxed myself – which helps!

These are the four most recent outcomes.

One thing that is emerging, for me, and it isn’t a surprise, is that these are portraits of the people.  Whatever the pretext, and the presence of the items retained from childhood provides that and a narrative as well, it is something about the subject that I’m really trying to capture.  Whether or not I am succeeding is another matter, but it’s what I find myself looking for.
I’ve also been working some more on the text to go with the images.  Ideally, it should just give enough of a clue to encourage the viewer to read the image, but leave some questions hanging for the reader to think about – a bit of a tall order, but that’s what I’m trying for.  I’m going to include one example in this post, but I might put more in the OCA Flickr group, just to see whether there is any reaction to the principle.  Below is the first of the four images above, but with its text added.  If anyone views/reads this and has any comments whatsoever, I’d be very interested.  The text should be just about readable, I think; if you click on the image.


  1. I think these are looking good. the print is readable and I believe it meets your aim. It gives information which helps me read into the image and some clues as to the subect's character and history but still leaves me with questions - it doesn't close anything down for me. Ilike the simple layout (I imagine your watermark will not be on the final output). I am also thinking os a series of situational portraits, though with a different theme from this. I hope to start in a month or so, when my current projects are out of the way.
    One random thought that occurred was to wonder if you had met anyone who has no childhood objects, and what you would do if that happened. Would they be excluded from the project by definition?

  2. Well, Eileen, some have said that they don't have anything, but that could be code for 'I don't want to have my photograph taken'. One or two have said 'I wish I hadn't thrown so much stuff away over the years' - so the project can cause feelings of regret. I havn't tried to photograph the absence of something. In general, discussing this project with people produces a positive response and genuine interest. I think there is certainly scope for keeping it going.

  3. I think this assignment demonstrates the progress you've made in this module Stan and this assignment has been an excellent learning experience for you.

    Portraiture really puts one on one's metal, you can't faff around for ages and, as you've discovered, you feel a sense of responsibility to the subject to deliver and part of that is ensuring that they don't lose confidence in you because you're dithering.