Drawing on the influence of Philip Blenkinsop and Rineke Dijkstra I went back to make more images. While I was shooting I kept their images in mind and prior to heading out I also read about the work of photographers like Steve McCurry’s ‘Afghan Girl’, Simon Wheatley’s, ‘Dont Call Me Urban, Time of Grime’, James Mollison ‘James and Other Apes, ‘Where Children Sleep’, ‘The Disciples’, August Sander’s ‘Workers’ images, Thomas Ruffs’s expressionless passport images, Robbie Coopers video ‘Immersion’, Joey Lawrence, Yousuf Karsh and the Taylor Wessing portrait prize images. All of these artists and works have a unique way of presenting a portrait, some through social documentary style, video, environmental or studio and all of them expanded my knowledge. I have tried to allow each to influence me in some way and to will continue to learn and incorporate their techniques into my own work.
The first thing that strikes me about the first image is the shadow cast across the face from an object outside. The expression and the body language seek to convey a message of unhappiness and this is helped by the blandness of the room and desk. I also chose to keep in the background, I felt it added context with the academic posters and the family photo pinned to the cork board.
My printed image has more contrast than the version seen here and the background is not as obvious. The soft lighting on the face is where my attention is drawn and I chose this for the interesting angle, the digital version lacks the contrast of the printed version and that contrast makes the image feel much more interesting.
When I shot this I was did not crop quite so tightly but after developing the negatives I noticed a bottle of aftershave on a desk in the for ground. I really found it distracting so I changed the crop at the enlarger and was much happier with the result. Here I have changed the angle again and positioned the subject side on to the window light. This has created an almost Rembrandt lighting effect with signs of a triangle just beginning to form on the cheek that’s in shadow. I also think this lighting effect really adds a moody feel to the image, further enhancing the emotional impact.
For this next image I decided to change things a little. I included more of the environment as I really liked the mundane and everyday items around the subject. I was thinking about William Eggleston exhibition and the New Topographics images we did at the start of term and how the mundane had qualities of their own. I felt that by allowing such objects to remain in the shot it would help to connect with the viewer. Here are objects that we all see and use everyday and it is no different from those suffering with depression or contemplating suicide. I wanted the viewer to be able to share a sense of familiarity and perhaps find greater empathy with the theme.
Each of the above images were shot using the Mamiya 7 in university provided accommodation. In each of the shots I made use of natural light coming in from a nearby window. On each of the occasions I had no idea what the rooms would be like or how much room I had to work in. I enjoyed working with the Mamiya 7 but did find using its rangefinder focusing system difficult to use. With the focus area being locked in the middle of the frame then I was often forced to focus and recompose. This ran the risk of blurring the image if my depth of field was to shallow as the plane of focus would change very slightly. In order to offset that risk I always shot at an aperture of f/11 or smaller.
With each of my subjects I took the time to explain my goals and the project to put them at ease and so they understood what I was hoping for. Each of them performed excellently and produced suitably sullen expressions. What I did find with the Mamiya 7 was that the images felt a little flat but when I tried to increase the contrast the printing stage the highlights over exposed very quickly. I managed to solve the problem in the darkroom by printing the images using a smaller aperture which seemed to give me greater control over the contrast. However I decided to switch to the RB67 for the rest of the assignment as I wanted to see if the images were different and to test my ability to use this other medium format camera.
When I arrived at this venue I found that the light from the window was very weak so I decided to change location. Using a corridor window in a communal area of the student accommodation allowed me to get a much better light. I was also pleased as the walls were completely plain. The light in this covers the face so there are no shadows, but the light fades quickly as it passes over the hair.
For this next image I wanted to use a tighter crop and really focus only on the face. I decided to place the person with the light source almost completely behind them but just leave enough for a small amount of illumination. I was trying to use the light to suggest a person living or heading into darkness.
This next image was similar to the last but in this occasion I wanted to create a 50/50 split. a person caught part the way between the two places.
I wanted to return to include a little environment again and this time I chose to use a the bed. In student accommodation the bed often takes up the largest portion of space and in addition to its normal function it can be used as a regular piece of furniture. As a result it becomes a central part of life in student accommodation and I wanted to include it in my sequence. The bed is also a place where the subject really finds themselves alone with their thoughts and has so many connotations of rest and eternal peace. I was fortunate enough that in this room the light reached the bed so I was able to get the angle I wanted.
My final image had a very strong contrast as the sun was streaming through the windows. The result was a very moody and moving image with the subject’s body language of a person who seems very lost in their own thoughts. I also felt this was a strong image to end my sequence on.
Despite to weight and awkward nature of the RB67 I really felt the images it produced were better. I really enjoyed using the top down view and I quickly began to get used to using a light meter. I went with the same technique of using window light and I carefully examined each room to see how the light would fall. On some occasions we moved to other locations to get a better window where the light was stronger and I always metered for the lightest part where the sun hit the face.