Assignment 1: A portrait

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Brief: Drawing together your experiences in completing the projects so far, take one person as a subject and create between 5 and 7 different portraits.

In just about every card shop there are photographs of sleeping babies photographed by Anne Geddes, in all sorts of costumes. Whilst her work is very creative and very skilled (especially not to wake the baby up!), it doesn’t appeal to me. I prefer a much more natural and realistic portrait, that documents the child’s development. I preferred the work of photographers such as Jill Greenberg, who’s photographs are much more realistic. However, Greenberg’s use of light and over-processing can make the children almost doll-like. Some of her methods and motives are also questionable. In End Times, Jill Greenwood photographed the tears and distress of children who had sweets taken away from them. The purpose of this was so that she could protest at the then current presiding Bush administration in America. I believe that ‘End Times’ betrays the photographer and subject relationship. The purpose of the portrait is to satisfy the photographer’s needs at the expense of the subject’s need to be treated with respect. The contract of trust is broken. Interestingly Greenberg’s work does highlight the fact that we tend to take photographs of the happy events in our lives. Our photo albums are full of happier times, celebrating achievements and milestones.

Only yesterday (23/7/13) photographers, who had been camped outside the Lindo Wing of St. Mary’s Hospital for as long as 3 weeks, finally got ‘the picture’ of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge leaving with their baby George, the future king. There will be countless photographs of the young prince in the years to come, however this first sight of him being carried by his predecessor to the throne was an historic moment.

Ever since my son was born I’ve been taking hundreds of photos as he develops and explores the world around him. Whilst it is great to have so many images of his every step, it is difficult to have any one image that sticks out in my mind. The purpose of this assignment for me is to produce a set of photographs that can reflect the inquisitive nature of my son. Below are my chosen images.

1. Starting to crawl.   ISO 800   36mm   f/4   1/40

Lit by natural side-lighting, taken underneath the dining room table, this image reflects his explorative nature. From a technical point of view I was pleased about this image because it was quite shady under the table and he moves very quickly. I had an idea of what I wanted to photograph, trying to use the table legs to act as a ‘frame’. After lots of attempts to get his attention, I chose to press the shutter button just as he was looking at the camera, creating a connection with the viewer.

2. A helping hand.   ISO 200   56mm   f/8   1/90

During this assignment I was aware that I needed to include a full length portrait. This was going to be difficult because he is still learning to walk and isn’t too steady on his feet yet! With my mum and brother assisting him, I was able to photograph my son walking towards the camera. My low viewpoint enabled me capture all of him. I felt I could have waited a split second longer for him to be looking at the camera and one of his feet to be off the ground so that it is obvious what he is doing. Next time I would set my camera to ‘continuous’ so that I could select from a series of images.

3. Taking a closer look.   ISO 1250   40mm   f/4   1/80

My son was almost in the camera for this photograph. I managed to capture him bright-eyed looking directly at the camera. The more mobile he is becoming the more interested my son is becoming, for me this image reflects this inquisitive nature.

4. Going over the edge.   ISO 1000 34mm   f/4.5   1/60

I wanted to capture another image of him exploring and waited to capture him peering over the settee. It was quite a tricky low-angled shot and I needed to make sure I took the photograph before he looked at me.

5. Summer look.   ISO 100   135mm   f/7.1   1/60

At 10 months old it feels as though our son has achieved so much. This head shot was an attempt to bring the viewer closer to him.

6. Taking time out.   ISO 100   60mm   f/2.8   1/350

Similarly to photograph 4, I wanted to capture a moment when my son was on his own in a reflective mood. I shot it through the mesh of his travel cot to create an unusual texture to the final image.

Overall I’m really happy with this set of portraits. I feel they capture my son’s emerging identity. Unfortunately because he is so young it doesn’t give me an opportunity to direct him into different poses. Instead, I have had to wait for these moments to appear in my viewfinder, looking for potential photo opportunities. In addition to this, because he is not walking on his own yet, there have been limited opportunities for me to create full-length portraits.

As he gets older and more independent I will use what I am learning in P & P to give more direction. However, by not directing him and looking for opportunities, I believe has enabled me to produce more natural looking images. This process has enabled me to be more selective about the photos I take and the photos I keep.

Tutor feedback

My tutor was pleased with the technical and compositional aspects of these photographs. I found this very encouraging because it means that I am applying the skills and understanding I have acquired during TAOP and DPP. I have included the Exif information for each photograph, which my tutor asked for. My tutor also agreed that I achieved my aim of creating ‘natural, realistic portraits’. However he did suggest that photographing my son wasn’t challenging which I have to agree with him…although getting my son to stay still long enough was challenging! My tutor has encouraged me to really push myself and my ideas.