People and Place

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Assignment One - A Portrait

The difficulty I faced with this assignment is that of wanting to present the work of my on-going project versus a nice series of portraits where I had more control over the taking of the pictures.
I have opted for showing work from my project. My reasons are that this is the work that I want to continue with so this is where I really need to work out how to improve technically within the limitations I face.
The work continues from last year. I am photographing those around Kings Cross who have issues with alcohol, drugs and mental problems.  Most stay in hostels. Some are transient and live on the street, this second group I may only see once. Those that stay in the hostels can only do so for a maximum of two years.  Depending on where they are in that cycle will govern how long I get to follow them.  It has taken me several months to earn the trust that enables me to take most of these pictures.  I always give a good quality copy of the image to everyone I take a picture of. (with exception of those I don't see again to be able to do this).

This assignment required the same person taken in various type, style and sessions.  I wasn't sure I was going to be able to do this with one person.  I cannot control when I will see those that I am photographing or if I do if they will be willing to have their picture taken that day.

Debbie is one of the people I have been photographing. The images below were taken between November and two days ago.

Consider each portrait, Identify what has worked and what hasn't and why.
  1. The first image was taken in the middle of the day.  I got her to stand in a doorway with the black door behind her to deal with the strong light and to avoid any other distractions around us.  I think this one would have been better if I had got her to look directly at me.  Although I do like her expression. She was concerned about her boyfriend this day.
  2. The second picture is of Debbie with Deano, they were worried about the outcome of breaking their asbo.  I took several pictures and I did improve the cropping in others, but I liked the expressions in this image as it captures just how they felt that day. Fill in flash would improve the shadows in their faces but I never use flash for these portraits.  A big camera is intrusive enough for this work.
  3. The third image gives a sense of place as well as person, which the previous two don't. I would have liked stronger and sharper eyes. It's a bit soft.
  4. I was trying to get a picture that captured her not posing, the way she is when she tells me her stories.  I was happy I captured that.  However the lens is two wide and has distorted her face. It would have also been better if she was angled a little bit further to her right to have utilised the side window light better.
  5. If only I had used a different lens!

How can I improve my own skills?
In the past couple of days I have tried using a small reflector for some of these portraits.  Where I am sitting with them and can ask them to hold it, it makes a big difference.  There will be situations where this is just not possible.  I am going to change to a fixed lens over the next few weeks as it is too easy with a zoom lens to zoom in too wide.
I need to be more aware of how people are posed, take a bit more time before I click that shutter.
I'm still missing something, I'm not sure what but the pictures lack that special something that makes them stand out.  I hope this course will help me resolve this.

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