You’ve looked at portraits taken of subjects who are either ‘aware’ or ‘unaware’ of the photographer’s interest. You should by now have thoroughly researched both areas and perhaps found some further examples of your own. Many of the practitioners highlighted here don’t necessarily work exclusively in one of these fields, but move between the two, depending upon what they’re trying to achieve through their imagery. There needs to be a reason for employing a particular method of working and it has been the intention of Part Two to provoke thought regarding what these reasons might be. The next assignment should test this reasoning to the full.
Brief: The objective of this assignment is to provide you with an opportunity to explore the themes covered in Part Two with regard to the use of both studio and location for the creation of portraits. This assignment is about taking what has worked from the above exercises and then trying to develop this further in terms of interchanging the use of portraits taken on location (street) with portraits taken inside (studio). You need to develop a series of five final images to present to the viewer as a themed body of work. Pay close attention to the look and feel of each image and think how they will work together as a series. The theme is up to you to choose; you could take a series of images of a single subject or a series of subjects in a themed environment. There is no right answer, so experiment.
Course Criteria Reflection:
Research Irving Penn and Claire Strand *(see course notes) and a couple of own examples of ‘aware’ portraiture
Brief: This exercise is essentially the same as the previous one, but instead of taking photographs of the same person, here you must make portraits of three different subjects, but keep the background to the image consistent (see Irving Penn and Clare Strand, above). There are many ways of exploring this exercise. You could either select an interesting backdrop to use inside (studio) or perhaps select an interesting backdrop on location (street). Whichever you choose, try to be as creative as you can and be prepared to justify your decisions through your supporting notes.
Again, present all three images together as a series and, in around 500 words, reflect upon how successful this exercise was in your learning log or blog.
Brief: Consider the work of both Callahan and Germain, then select a subject for a series of five portraits, varying the locations and backgrounds. The one consistent picture element must be the subject you have chosen, who must appear in all five images. Think carefully about where you choose to photograph them, either using a pose that offers a returned gaze to the camera, or simply captures them going about their daily business. The objective once again is to visually link the images together in some way.
You may choose a family member as a subject, like Callahan, or agree to photograph a colleague or friend, or even a willing participant who is either known or previously unknown to you, like Germain’s story about Charles Snelling.
Present your five images as a series and write around 500 words reflecting on the decisionsyou made. Include both of these in your learning log or blog.
Brief: This exercise comes with a serious health warning!
Closely consider the work of the practitioners discussed above, then try to shoot a series
of five portraits of subjects who are unaware of the fact they are being photographed.
As you’ve seen, there are many ways in which you can go about this, but we can’t stress
enough that the objective here is not to offend your subjects or deliberately invade
anyone’s privacy. If you don’t have permission to shoot in a privately-owned space, then
you should only attempt this work in a public space, where permission to shoot is not
necessarily required. This is a very interesting challenge, which some students will find incredibly difficult. Remember that the creative outcome of the practitioners discussed above has come about through a sustained approach, which is then heavily edited for presentation. You’ll need to shoot many images in order to be able to present five final images that work together as a set.
Think everything through carefully before attempting this exercise as the responsibility
for the outcome of the portraits rests entirely with you. If during the course of this exercise you are challenged in any way, be prepared to delete what you have shot. If you can see that you are annoying someone, or making them feel uncomfortable, stop shooting immediately. You’ll be required to operate with a degree of common sense here and not take unnecessary risks. There are ways of completing this exercise without incurring risk, such as shooting the work at a party you’ve been invited to, where all the guests have been invited for a particular celebration.
The reflection about your methodology will be as important as the final five images, so be prepared to write about how you found the experience (around 500 words) and present your findings via your learning log or blog.
Nb After researching these answer the following: Parr and Wood were photographing New Brighton at the same time during the early 1980s. Parr claimed ‘I am a documentary photographer, and if I take a good photograph in the process, that’s a bonus’. Wood stated ‘I’m interested in good photographs, and if they document something, so much the better!’ (Wood, 2005, p.33).
Which of these approaches most closely reflects your own experience?
Brief: In this exercise, you’ll build on your ‘Background as context’ exercise (Exercise 1.2) by taking the relationship between your subject and their surroundings a step further. The objective here is to try to create a link between the two components of your image, i.e. the subject and their surroundings. Make three different portraits using three different subjects. Prior to shooting your portraits, engage with your subjects and agree three different specific locations which have some relevance or significance to them individually. You’ve already tried to give a particular context to a portrait by considering how the background might link to the subject positioned in the foreground, but now you must go one step further and negotiate a specific physical location where you’ll photograph your subject. This can either be inside or on location, but the key to this portrait is the interaction you’ve had with your subject in identifying a place that has specific meaning for them. Each portrait should be accompanied by a very short piece of text explaining the choice of location or venue. Don’t be tempted to create a work of complete fiction here; it might make life easier for you, but you’d be missing an opportunity to really engage with your subject and collaborate with them in the image-making process. You have complete freedom to work this out as you feel appropriate; for example, you may choose to theme the narrative behind all three portraits. Think carefully about how these images could work together as a set. For instance, if you plan to shoot outside, try to make sure the lighting conditions/ time of day/weather conditions all work coherently. Present all three images together as a series and reflect upon how successful this exercise was in your learning log or blog. Write around 500 words.