Following our initial task and reviewing the shots we produced, we were given a new brief, “My People”, to shoot four friends and present 2 portraits of them. One shot was to present what we liked about them, for this I thought I would show the qualities of the person – kindness/ intelligence/softness. What I didn’t consider was to also focus on a physical attribute that I might admire too, a smile/ hair/ dress sense.
The second shot had to present what they did for a living/ for a hobby/ in their spare time. This one although seemingly straight forward, actually was harder for me to visualise. How can you portray someone’s career without taking pictures of them in the workplace? I began to think about other details, objects that might represent what they do (computers, art supplies) or taking a picture of a friend getting ready for work.
I unfortunately did not have access to multiple people the week of the brief, due to personal circumstances. However, I did shoot one subject following the brief.
For my subject’s occupation/ what they do, I decided I really want to shoot her in the process of getting ready for a shift, I wanted to capture the transformation into professional attire/’mode’. I photographed her for the entire process – putting make up on, doing her to actually wearing the uniform. I used natural lighting, a window in front the subject to illuminate her face in soft lighting, and shot against a plain background where possible as I wanted the focus to be the subject and attire.
For what I like about my subject I experimented slightly more. I took photos of her in her bedroom, her natural habitat that is filled with art and trinkets that really symbolise the joyous extent of her eccentricities. I tried shooting her from a distance, dancing in front of her mirror – displaying her innate playfulness and sense of humour. Finally shooting her profile, a feature of her appearance I greatly admire, but also aware that she is self conscious of, I wanted the picture to be a service to really, a great face. I played with different focal lengths, depth of fields and distance to subject to create different tones to the shots and give myself a wide variety to select from.
What They Do
I chose this photo as my final shot because I believe it was the strongest photo that portrayed what my subject does, whilst also being a strong shot technically. I decided to use natural lighting as it was what was available to me at the time, but I also felt it added a gloom to the photo, everything is muted and looks a little depressing – which reflected the mood of my subject, who was preparing for her upcoming shift. I liked her distracted, reflective gaze and think it works well in this context. When I received feedback on this photo, they guessed her occupation correctly and thought she seemed upset and sad, I was happy with this feedback as they interpreted exactly the mood of the subject at the time. Feedback for improvement suggested I could have tried to portray her occupation in a slightly more creative way, than just to portray the jumper. I began to think about other locations I could have shot in to do this, perhaps in the streets where her work is – or at her bus stop before or after a shit. Technically I think the photo is a bit dark, so I would have improved that but other than that I was happy with the final shot.
Why I Like Them
For this brief, I experimented with many different versions of the portrait but settled on the side profile shot. I was drawn to the strength in the contrast of the silhouette against the background. I decided to photograph my subject’s profile because it has always been one of their defining features. I know my subject to be slightly dismissive at times about their physical attributes and I really wanted this portrait to be a homage to what I thought was excellent about their appearance. I shot against the light source to create the silhouette effect, and only with use of natural lighting, this time giving the shot a somewhat serene quality to it. I purposely shot between the focal lengths 45-55mm, to eliminate any distracting details in the back or foreground. Shooting at this length, combined with a wide aperture made the background soft and out of focus, a shallow depth of field. I think had I shot wider and had the background been more in focus the end result might not have been as striking.
Feedback about the photo revealed that my peers thought the person in the photo might be a dreamer, or very reflective/ solitary, qualities that my subject actually has, I was pleased to hear that. I had focused on making the photo aesthetically pleasing and still managed to convey a sense of who my subject was, albeit quite subtly.
Of the two portraits I prefer this shot, I think it demonstrates my style of photographing, I like working with silhouettes, rich colours and graphically interesting images.
To improve this I would certainly shoot more people to complete the brief, time allowing I may return and shoot the rest of the series as this was a task I greatly enjoyed.