Activity 3 – Still Life Portrait

Our brief was to create a portrait of a famous or well known person using still life objects to represent them, excluding text, work they might have produced or photos of them. The photos were to be shot in confidence until feedback session, where our peers would try and guess the identity of who we tried to portray.

Initially I struggled to come up with an idea, I couldn’t think who I could successfully show with the objects I had to my disposal, this lead to me delaying starting the shoot and thus reducing my time shooting. In hindsight I would just start shooting ideas and improve on an idea every time, as when I look at my photos there are areas I would like to change.

When it came to portraying my subjects I thought about how to present the objects, would it be against a plain background, how would they be laid out? I considered doing a Wes Anderson style shoot, shot from above – objects laid out neatly and in line. I settled on trying to convey a story, a narrative to portray my subjects.

Contact Sheet

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Final Images


Amelia Earheat

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To me Amelia is defined by being a famous woman pilot and her disappearance. I had a model plane that I knew I could include in the shot and decided a map would also be useful. The plane and the map alone wasn’t enough, I tried to introduce a feminine aspect – the glasses and fabric floral suitcase and scarf to hint at a particular gender. I added the bag to give a sense of history, to imply this person lived in the past. I tried to convey a sense of the past too, with the colour scheme, using browns and beiges, to create a sepia look to the shot.
I really struggled with this shoot, the plane was too big for the frame and I think it is too lost in the details of this shot. Feedback for the photo reflected this, people were unable to guess who I was trying to portray. Perhaps I chose someone slightly too obscure, perhaps someone to hard to portray in simple objects – but I believe the objects I selected and the composition of the photo played a big part in this.


Amy Winehouse

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My shot of Amy Winehouse is my preferred image out of the two, I think I was more successful in portraying her. For this I really concentrated on creating a narrative, selecting objects she was well known for – cigarettes, wine, her hair, a radio. I experimented with a variety of backdrops, different materials etc and eventually settled on the above as I like the contrast of glitter against the red velvet, I think it gives a sense of this person living quite dramatically. Having the wig resting to the side of the image is an integral part of the image, I wanted to perhaps suggest she had taken it off after a gig, I wanted to play with a bit of humour.
I shot with two artificial light sources, although they weren’t professional standard, I did my best to work with what I had. I used a regular tungsten bulb illuminating the objects from the left and counter balanced it with a blue light directing from the other side. My intention was to create the feeling or atmosphere of a nightclub, or a dressing room somewhere, again trying to emphasise a dramatic quality.

Although happy with my shots, I would definitely reshoot the images. With Amelia’s I would be more selective with my objects, as I think it lost who I was trying to portray. And for Amy’s there are a few things I would like to alter just to make it look more finished eg, the backdrop – with a strap showing towards the top and I would rearrange the objects slightly – definitely make sure to fold over the cigarette package so a distracting face wasn’t showing (I edited it out in post).

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