This was more difficult than I first thought and took some time to pin down exactly what I wanted to cover. In my mind, I had the work of David Hockney and Nadav Kander who both did portraits using sections of people’s bodies: Hockney did polaroid montages, Kander did a grid type structure. To get a consistency in the images, I used the same subject throughout and as I took more and more photographs, I kept coming back to the simpler background and getting closer to the subject. This meant that the focus was on the person and the background was inconsequential. I also had in mind Robert Mapplethorpe who closely cropped portraits on occasions as well as simplifying portraits into black and white.
Originally, I was looking at the idea of what we show or hide when having our photograph taken. Barthes said in Camera Lucida (1980) that we change to whatever the photographer is wanting us to be, and how there is some sort of subconscious reaction to being photographed, that we change ourselves:
“In front of the lens, I am at the same time: the one I think I am, the one I want others to think I am, the one the photographer thinks I am, and the one he makes use of to exhibit his art.”
I had been struck by how Barney was willing to sit for me but his expression gave nothing away at all which is where I started. The theme of dark and light did not work as I was unable to capture the differences in the way that I thought. This morphed into more an exploration of what the tattoos suggest about the person, the culmination of the tattoos into the whole being. They are specific to each individual and chosen for reasons that I am sure sometimes are not very clear.
These tattoos bring together the things that are important to Barney: his music, his inner strength, his belonging to a social group and with the leg tattoo, a nod to his favourite rugby team. The individual parts make up the person that he is and form part of his identity and how he sees himself. I am from another generation where tattoos were simply not seen and not highly thought of as though they defined a certain subculture. Now they are displayed with pride and can be intricate works of art tailored to the individual. They are an expression of individualism, a way of setting you apart from everyone else but also a way of belonging to a type of club, a tribe.
I came back to the ‘body parts’ approach after lining up several different sets of images, and this approach has a symmetrical look at the artwork on his arms and legs with a left and right, arms and legs and then finally the whole person. I did set up a studio of sorts with plain white background and did several variations of what I had shot before to compare the blue background to the white. My feeling was that the sets with the blue background worked better overall as there was a more casual, less ‘setup’ feel to them. I keep on looking for the expressions hoping to catch them but I have realized that we all hide when there is a camera there, and are unwilling to show anything that might be misconstrued.
- DVD: Mapplethorpe – Look at the Pictures, Bailey,F & Barbato,R, Dogwoof Studio, 2016
- Barthes, Roland (1980) Camera Lucida. Translated by Richard Howard 1981. London:
- Eskildsen, U (edited), Street and Studio: An Urban History of Photography, 2008, Tate Publishing
https://www.nadavkander.com/ (accessed 4.10.2017)
Looking again at portraits of people that he has done.
http://www.davidhockney.co/works/photos/composite-polaroids (accessed 4.10.2017)
Composites and montages of people to make up a portrait overall
Tattoos and set up of portraits
http://www.derekridgers.com/ih3d6jdsec7knjsoohijw6dkm5uoq9 (accessed 4.10.2017)
Carpet Face, Soho 2015
Tattoos. Seen at a local exhibition in Torquay.
In addition to the DVD and other books read concerning the work of Mapplethorpe.
https://www.nadavkander.com/portraits/grids-panels/single#11 (accessed 16.10.2017)
David Beckham, 16 Pictures, 2015
Looking at the use of sections of the body