The brief was to make five images of the same person with different backgrounds. My thinking was to try to get five different portraits within a small confined area in one session in order to get the consistency of the same person wearing the same clothes but against different backgrounds to see if it made a difference. It was a case of trying to capture a snapshot in time. My son agreed to come along with me to be the model, and we took the dogs with us. The conditions were good as it was relatively early in the morning and it was bright with sunshine and clouds, therefore there was no interior shooting or artificial light used. The location was a seaside walk that then went up onto a grassed green with woods and trees bordering it. In this way, it was possible to vary the background within a small area and get seaside as well as more rural looks. I used my compact Sony CyberShot camera and while it was small and easy to use, it had limitations in that it didn’t give me the control over the focussing and aperture that I really wanted. I did both landscape and portrait orientation to see which worked better.
The landscape versions work quite well with (3) and (5) being more intereesting than the other two. (3) I had in mind trying to make him very small in the landscape so that the attention is not solely on the model but on the surrounding area as well. It is always tempting to get very close to the subject when photographing people, but sometimes it is good to stand back and see the bigger picture. (5) has lines for the eye to follow down to the beach and he is engaging with the camera, looking at the lens with a neutral expression. Looking at them as a set, there is something that misses, there is something lacking in them. I think that I concentrate more on the landscape than on the foreground.
For the portrait orientation:
The full body shots work better over the set of images and that gives it a coherence and a flow that was missing in the previous set because they varied. I mixed them in Assignment 1 and now understand that that is part of what was missing in that work. This has a continuity. What also springs to mind here is that the vertical space allows a different approach to include different information. In the landscape orientation it is more about the place than the person. In this set, while there is more of the background in them, they are about the person as a whole. I also think that a shallower depth of filed in a couple of them would have added interest and put more attention on the person and make him stand out. Number (7) has a little of this and it makes the sea less prominent and more of a blue background. I like the difference in light between (9) and (10). It makes it look as though it is autumn in one and summer in the other. Technical issues aside, these two work nicely as there are different textures in them too – one is soft, the other is hard. Interestingly, 7,8 and 9 has him looking away from the camera and this takes away the confrontational feeling that there was in the first set, softens them in some way.
The point of the exercise is to see if the background can make a difference to the portrait in telling the viewer something about the person. It would appear that having different backgrounds can give clues but doesn’t make up the whole story. It would be interesting to compare a set of images in the same places as these, but taken with him wearing different clothes and at different times of day. I’m reminded of holiday photos when you take a lot of photos within a short space of time, and often the people in them are wearing the same clothes but are in different situations. The thread that binds them is the location, the place that is the holiday destination so it isn’t specific to a certain part of the destination. There is a story to be told through images and this story is one where there is little happening. I know the locations and I know the model, but I don’t think that it says anything else. Location is important, light is important and the model is important. But ultimately you need a point of interest and maybe that is the point here – to make a decent set of images that tell the viewer something, all three have to come together with a flow and space to breathe. There has to be some sort of connection between the model and the camera to make a spark that can be built upon. That is something to bear in mind as I grapple with ideas for Assignment 2.