Many professional photographers, as well as their ‘work’, in the commercial sense, will undertake personal projects. Some, those that are more art led in that their income is mainly from selling contemporary art, would regard their projects as their work and the commercial stuff as a sometimes necessary evil.
This will be my second project on the subject of portraiture. My first was my Final Major project that culminated in participation in an exhibition in the Millennium Court Arts Center and contributed to my qualification in photography. On that occasion I produced four large, fine art, colour prints on the subject of Environmental Portraiture featuring local celebrities and careful use of colour. Colour played an important role in those images. Now I want to continue my work on environmental portraiture, but this time the subject will be the star with the environment aspect playing the main supporting role.
Nothing is set in stone but this time I envisage a large series of black and white portraits. They will set the subject in an environment in which he or she is, not only comfortable, but in which they practice their passion. For some this may be their home, for others possibly their workplace or the place where they practice their hobby, sport, social activity or whatever it is that consumes them! It will not be the person in the act of that consuming passion but the environment will probably indicate or at least suggest what it is that this person is all about. I want it to be a window into their life.
I currently see it as a black and white project, and the light will be all important. This doesn’t mean that all images being lit in the same style. Quite the opposite, the subject and the environment will dictate the light. The light will have to be sympathetic to the subject. Sometimes it may impart a sense of drama, and at other times it should probably almost invisible. Sometimes daylight, sometimes artificial light.
My influences? Certainly for one, W Eugene Smith. Smith was a photojournalist and war correspondent but it is his later work such as his Country Doctor series and his Pittsburgh Project that have grabbed my attention. The sense of drama and humanity contained in his images is outstanding. Portraits by Bill Brandt have also been an influence. His portraits such as Francis Bacon Walking on Primrose Hill and of Tom Stoppard being two great examples. And of course I can’t mention Brandt without also mentioning Brian Griffin, quoted as one of Britain’s most influential portrait photographers. Griffin takes a very contemporary approach to his portraiture and I think his work is fantastic. Perhaps not to draw so heavily on the contemporary element for this project but, there are styles that are worth keeping in mind.
I will post more as the project progresses.