BA Phot

I&P Part 1 - Exercise 1.2 - Page 2

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Project 1, Historic photographic portraiture - Exc 1.1 - Project 1.2 Typologies - Exc 1.2 - Exc 1.3 - Exc 1.4 - Conclusion - Upsum

New online course material - Exc. N1 - Exc. N2 - Exc. N3 - Exc. N4 - Exc. N5 - Exc. N6 - Exc. N7
Spence and Martin portrait analysis - Bate, five elements

Arbus - Bellocq - Bey - Bird - Callahan - Cameron - Campt - Cohen - Evans - Fiskin - Hardman - Höfer - Hoppé - Huebler - Mapplethorpe - Medley - Mertin - Nadar - Sander - Schmid - Zaidi -

interpretation - Reflective Writing - Square Mile - Standard Six - Surface - Typologies

Preamble - Part 1 - Part 2 - Part 3 - Part 4 - Part 5 - Asg.1 - Asg.2 - Asg.3 - Asg.4 - Asg.5 - C&N - EyV

Background as context

Photographs - Analysis - DIY - Conclusion

Make a portrait of someone you know, paying very close attention to what is happening in the background of the shot. Be very particular about how you pose the subject and what you choose to include in the photograph. Ideally, the background should tell the viewer something about the subject being photographed.

Reflect upon how successful this project was in your learning log or blog. I&P p.26

[27Aug20] The subject will (inevitably as we are still Covid risk-averse) be my partner and in her natural environment at this time of year, the garden.

I will aim for various portrait 'lengths' (from full- to head and shoulders) and gazes, based on Sander's lead, and always try to be mindful of the background.

Contact sheets

[1Sep20] After a few days of poor weather, the garden was available today


Exercise 1.2
1 Sep 2020


Exc. 1.2 Exc. 1.2 Exc. 1.2 Exc. 1.2 Exc. 1.2 Exc. 1.2 Exc. 1.2 Exc. 1.2
Exercise 1.2
1 Sep 2020


[2Sep] I believe my output is a reasonably good response to the exercise. Having gone to some lengths on a detailed analysis of Sander's Face of Our Time, I set out with the general intention of making a range of images regarding length, position and focus but not copying any specific image directly. Having shown the (subjectively) most successful eight images above, I will now show each alongside a comparable Sander (or other) image and comment on them.

Images not made by the writer in this section are © the artists, their agents or their estates.

Exc. 1.2
1. standing, greenhouse

I asked Jan to look 'serious' for these photographs as there are few smiles in Sander's series. The request was not always followed.

There is no direct comparator for this, perhaps the most successful shot. My aim in this series, like Sander's in some of his images for Face of Our Time, was to show the subject in their working environment and this best establishes Jan in her garden.

The focus depth here is not significant as the subject matter (person and plants) are all in the same plane. The exposure was at f/4.5.

All the images in this series were taken with a standard 35mm f/2 lens (50mm equivalent) on a Fuji X-T2.

Exc. 1.2 Sander
2. standing, full length
3. Sander, #10 The Landowner

Here (fig. 2) the subject is close to the background and so both are in focus. Exposure at f/4.5.

I have noticed that, after writing the piece on Dawoud Bey and noting his comment,

I discourage my students from talking about photographing as "shooting" or "capturing" or "taking," because it's really about trying to figure out a way to describe with the camera, to make something. Dawoud Bey, on Photographing People and Communities, 2019,p.29

that I am trying to stick to that dictum and avoid such terms in my writing.

Exc. 1.2 Exc. 1.2 Sander
4-5. standing three-quarter length
6. Sander, #2 Shepherd

Aware that I needed an out-of-focus background for some images, I asked Jan to move away from the bamboo and opened the aperture to f/2.0 for figs.4 and 5.

The most noticeable use of a defocussed exterior background in Face of Our Time is the Shepherd. Although Sander clearly had more room to play with in distancing his subject from the background, increasing the effect, the difference between figs. 4 and 5 at f.2.0 and fig. 2 at f/4.5 is significant.

Exc. 1.2 Sander
7. with pitchfork
8. Sander, #2 Pastrycook
9. Grant Wood, American Gothic, 1930

This was the only pre-planned shot. Sander included 'tools of the trade' to establish the subject's role and station in some of his images, most notably in fig. 8 the Pastrycook.

The garden tool to hand for a formal standing portrait was a pair of secateurs which, while they serve the purpose are too unobtrusive. When thoughts turned to a garden fork, it was inevitable that Grant Wood's American Gothic, fig. 9, would have an effect.

The detail on the tines of the fork emphasise the out-of-focus background and make this the clearest demonstration of that effect.

Exc. 1.2 Sander
9. seated 3Q, facing away
10. Sander, #46 Tycoon

As noted in the detailed analysis, the Tycoon is truly an outlier amongst the portraits in Face of Our Time. In isolation, it is a workmanlike image, although the elaborately detailed background could be seen as a distraction: presumably Sander decided that was necessary to demonstrate the opulence of his surroundings.

In the case of fig.9, the posture was emulated and the background is closer than in Sander's, but not as distracting.

Exc. 1.2
11. seated, full length
12. Sander, #48 Middle-class professional couple

Fig. 11 is a much more natural pose for the subject and Jan has forgotten to look dour. Here the innovation is a little foreground blur (not seen in Sander's series), with an aperture of f/2 .

Exc. 1.2 Sander
13. seated 3Q,
14. Sander, #49 The Architect

Finally, fig. 13 is a similar shot, differently framed, at f/4.5.

Exc. 1.2
standing, greenhouse


[3Sep] The exercise went reasonably well and demonstrated a variety of poses and exposure effects within the limits of the space available. In my view, the first is the most successful as it shows Jan in her natural environment and is the least posed. That said, I was involved, making the decisions and aware of the the aims of the exercise. An independent viewer might reach different conclusions.


For references, see page 1.

Page created 27-Aug-2020 | Page updated 31-Dec-2020