Exercise 2.3: Same Model, Different Background

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.

Landscape orientation:

Ex2.3 Same-diff Cameron landscape-1
(1)
Ex2.3 Same-diff Cameron landscape-2
(2)
Ex2.3 Same-diff Cameron landscape-3
(3)
Ex2.3 Same-diff Cameron landscape-4
(4)
Ex2.3 Same-diff Cameron landscape-5
(5)

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:

Ex2.3 Same-diff Cameron-1
(6)
Ex2.3 Same-diff Cameron-2
(7)
Ex2.3 Same-diff Cameron-3
(8)
Ex2.3 Same-diff Cameron-4
(9)
Ex2.3 Same-diff Cameron-5
(10)

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.

 

 

Individual Spaces

Exercise 2.1 – Individual Space

Three subjects, three different portraits.  For this exercise, unusually, I engaged with my two sons and one of their girlfriends and from this point of view it was interesting to ask them about something other than our usual family conversations.  Barney is 23 and Cameron is 20.  Lia is Cameron’s girlfriend and she is 19.  There is a link here because Lia’s family moved away from Torquay when she was in primary school and only moved back here in 2015, while our family moved here from Birmingham in 2004.

I talked to the boys about how they felt about moving from Birmingham to Torbay during their primary school years, and whether they felt at home here or whether Birmingham was in fact home to them.  Despite both of them having been born in the city, neither of them felt any affiliation to Birmingham; to them Torbay is and always has been home and they feel very comfortable here.  Lia felt the same way in that Torbay is more her home than London or Reading, and she feels at home here.

Barney: Barney is very active and spends a lot of time in the gym.  Exercise is extremely important to him and is a vital part of his make-up and routine.  He spent just over a year training to be a Royal Marine Commando where “phys” was a daily routine until he fractured his leg and made the decision to leave to allow time to heal, something he has regretted for a long time.  We agreed that Lympstone would not be suitable, given the fact that while pivotal in his life, it was a moment in time that has now passed.  Dartmoor is his place that he goes to for solitude and to walk and think.  However, with an hour to get there and back it just wasn’t feasible to get there this time.  We had to compromise so I took photos of him in his gym kit in his other home – the kitchen.  Keeping fit involves eating healthily and he cooks for himself now so him post workout showing off his tattoos is the next best thing.

Cameron: Cameron is the younger of my two sons and has grown up here so his attachment is to the seaside.  He spent a lot of time as a teenager walking with his friend Chris along the seafront to get out of the house and away from us.  There were two places that he felt would be important to him, one was Rock Walk in Torquay, an elevated walkway and platform that looks out across the Bay and over the harbour of Torquay.  At night, it is lit up with colour changing lights.  The other was the park by Thatcher Avenue which has a pathway that leads down to Thatcher Rock.  This was their preferred destination once he passed his driving test, and so he felt that this one was more important as being able to drive opened a whole new world and independence.

Lia: Lia met Cameron last year and she now lives with us.  Her favourite place is the beach at Preston in Paignton as they would walk the dogs there and have ice-cream on sunny days.  To her, this is the place that is special as it is about her and Cameron and their relationship.

Portraits:

For these portraits, I used an 85mm fixed prime lens rather than my usual zoom lens.  Barney captures him with his tattoos on show and that is important.  He is very proud of his tattoos and plans to get more.  It is very much a statement of him and who he is as a person.  His face on look to the camera is also very him, no holds barred and take on the world.

Ex2.1 Individual Space B-1
Barney

Cameron is a more relaxed pose on a sunny day so there was plenty of available light.  Not looking at the camera and wearing sunglasses gives him a slight air of distance, although he looks relaxed and happy with a slight smile.  He is framed by the sea which is where he feels comfortable, in a place that reminds him of good times.

Ex2.1 Individual Spaces-3
Cameron

Lia is more interesting for me because she is not my daughter, I know her quite well but I haven’t photographed her before this exercise.  She has a quietness in her demeanour, looking off camera and contemplating something.  She is squinting a little because of the bright sunshine, but the light falls quite evenly on her without too many obvious shadows.  I like the blurriness of the beach huts behind her so you can place her at the beach without them interfering in the portrait.  The eye looks at her rather than the surroundings.

Ex2.1 Individual Spaces-2
Lia

I realised that I still don’t actually use the portrait orientation very much and prefer to use landscape mode in order to get more information into the image, eg. good light, interesting clouds, something relevant to the whole image.  I took one of Cameron that was similar but in landscape mode and I think it works better than this one, but doesn’t fit if I was looking at a flow in terms of there being a constant look to the image sequence.  A photo of Barney at the beach with bright sunshine would also have worked better, giving it an outdoors and beach theme.  Maybe that it something to consider for Assignment 2.