Overall you have made a very good set of portraits, which are technically competent. You have demonstrated very good skills regarding approaching people and making them feel comfortable in front of the lens while dealing with coordinating all photographic aspects of portrait photography, which can be challenging.
You conducted very thorough research; thought about various possible approaches within portrait photography and shared your thoughts well in your learning log. You have made a good decision not to include the third image since the two you have are expressive enough and I doubt that the third would have added any new element to the work.
This assignment is a very good attempt. The fact that you where dealing with unknown people and had some very tight time constraints while coordinating the set up of the image, the lighting, composition can be very stressful. In the same time you have to communicate with your subjects in order to get them to ‘open up’ in front of the camera so although some improvements can be made, overall you did very well and I believe with continuous commitment to the coursework you will be able to improve your work significantly during this course.
Feedback on assignment
The lens that you used for the wide shots is very wide so the perspective of the images is a bit distorted. Especially the rooms but also the people like in image no 2. You made a deliberate decision about the wide-angle lens that you described in your learning log. Although there are many photographers that choose to use them for portrait photography, I would be careful with not using them too much (or not using too wide angles) because of the distortion it gives.
As the tutor says, this it was a very conscious decision to a wide-angled lens and to embrace the distortion. This idea was partly inspired by Bill Brandt.
The rooms around the backdrop are visible in image, which also was a deliberate creative decision, however often this happens unintentionally and photographers are forced to make that decision because of space limitations.
For shooting people in full length in a studio or improvised studio environment a room it is necessary to with very high ceilings and large backdrop. Photographers that do not have extensive experience very commonly underestimate this and resort to very wide-angle lenses to compensate this, which can be problematic due to the distortion that it gives.
The image of the religion teacher is shot upwards from a lower standpoint, which could also be a deliberate decision to make a statement about her status or her beliefs but this image stands out slightly because it is the only one in the series.
Alternatively you could have used backgrounds from the school to place them in their context and shot them without the backdrop.
I would have like to use parts of the school but it would have been very difficult on a school day without asking the subjects to stay on into the evening.
The black frame around the images is not necessary and I would avoid that in the future. I would also like to note that the contact sheet is very good and the work could have also presented in that way.
Fair comment. I will remove the frame in my rework.
Look at how photographers show their work and use text to place it in a specific context. The use of text and titles is very important and can be significant to the understanding of the images. Taryn Simon’s work could be very interesting for you to research since her artistic medium consists of three equal elements: photography, text, and graphic design.
Look at how she installed her work and decided to either incorporate the text in the work or have it as separate pieces. Also the amount of information that she gives in her texts or titles is very interesting.
I will research this point.
Overall your commitment to the course so far is outstanding and so is your overall coursework. You have taken all the exercises very seriously and reflected very well on them.
You have taken your research a step further than the course module suggests and taken initiative in researching photographers that you find relevant to your practice.
I would now recommend that you also start reading some theoretical books on Photography since they might help you to think about photographic concepts and ideas. You have plenty of suggestions on your reading list although I would recommend that you start with one of these:
David Bate’s Photography (Key Concepts)
Susan Sontag. (1976) On Photography, Harmondsworth, Penguin Books
Liz Wells, (2009) Photography: A Critical Introduction (2nd Edition), Routledge
I own and have read all three of these books. I have referred to Sontag and Wells numerous times during Context and Narrative and Identity and Place.
Your blog so far is excellent. It is very well organized, easy to navigate and contains a lot of information. You demonstrated that you are actively engaging with the course module and the research since and your comments in your blog are thoughtful and deliberated.
- Taryn Simon ‘ A living man declared dead’
Also there is a great publication done by Tate entitled ‘Street & Studio’ where you can find a selection of great photographers who used to work in the studio as well as on the streets. That sort of book (with a lot of references) can lead you to some other names or publications for your further research.
I have obtained a second hand copy of Street and Studio and am in the process of reading it.
I will give you a variety of artist to look at. Maybe you feel that some of them do not appeal to you in terms of their ideas and approach but some others might be very inspiring to you.
- Phillip Lorca diCorcia
- Seydou Keita
- Betina von Zwehl
- Rineke Dijkstra
- Broomberg and Chanarin – Ghetto
- Elina Brotherus
- Thomas Ruff – Portraits
- Lewis Hine – Labourers
I have previously looked at Dijkstra, Ruff and Hine and am currently researching diCorcia. I will research the others.
Pointers for the next assignment / assessment
For the next assignment you will need to explore locations both in and outside the studio for creating portraits. This is a great opportunity to use the experience you have made with this assignment and implement it in other ‘improvised’ studio environments. Note how you can be very creative in terms of the lighting set up and choice of background in any given environment using sunlight and portable equipment.