152mc Working with Light – Key Portraiture Influences – Task 3 Development

Alfred Krupp by Arnold Newman

Alfred Krupp by Arnold Newman (1963)
Alfred Krupp by Arnold Newman (1963)

As I had chosen to do environmental portraits I wanted to explore some of the best examples to see if I could understand why they worked. Before even knowing the back story to this image you automatically think he is a sinister person, perhaps a cruel and powerful individual and the photographer has shot him this way to portray that.

He has done this by incorporating a number of factors. Firstly is the lighting, there are strong shadows on the face with areas almost hidden in darkness. The side lighting has also brought out a lot of definition in the features and is quite hard and unforgiving. The body position is suggestive of a man that is a thinker, not someone who is prone to emotional outbursts. This is enhanced by the position of his hands under the chin and the way he is staring at the camera. His environment coupled with the suit implies he is a business man and possibly connected to the transport business.

The image is of Alfred Krupp who was not a military man but an industrialist who ran war factories manufacturing arms for the Nazi assault on Europe. Krupp gained notoriety for his insistence on using slave labour from the internment camps, where the prisoners of war were literarily worked to death. Even the Nazi’s suggested that Krupp use free German workers rather than slaves but Krupp insisted on using these captives. Naturally the majority of the men and boys who perished were Jewish and Krupp holds a particular place of hatred amongst its people. So the fact this image was taken is quite surprising particularly when you learn that the photographer was a Jewish Man named Arnold Newman. Originally Newman did not want to take the picture but after a while he decided to do it. Newman has a platform specifically erected in order to place Krupp against an industrial backdrop and he knew exactly the kind of image he had in mind. He chose not to light from beneath as he felt it would have been too obvious so he used to side lights. When composing the shot he asked Krupp to lean forward slightly, when he did he clasped his fingers together under his chin. The light hit the face perfectly and when Newman saw this effect he said in his own words ‘That he felt the hair stand up on the back of his neck’ ( Alfred Krupp by Arnold Newman (1963) Behind the lens getty images). He grabbed the shot which became one of Newman’s most iconic images. When Krupp saw the picture he was said to have been furious and for Newman this was a little bit of revenge.

You have to admire Newman’s ability with this picture. He has quite incredibly communicated so much about the picture that even without knowing anything then it was possible to speculate accurately regarding the images content and meaning.

Winston Churchill by Yousuf Karsh

Winston Churchill by Yousuf Karsh - Dec 1941.

Yousuf Karsh was a portrait photographer when he took this iconic image of Winston Churchill, shot using whatever passed for studio lighting in 1941 but the story behind it is quite fascinating. Churchill was known as a somewhat fearsome character who was impatient and somewhat intolerant. When Karsh who was rapidly rising in fame had the opportunity to photograph such a well known figure he jumped at the chance. When he finally came to get the picture Churchill was being his usual uncooperative self and Karsh was beginning to worry how he would get the shot he wanted. With all the equipment set up and ready to shoot Churchill was happily sat there puffing on one of his infamous cigars when Karsh approached him, almost apologetically took the cigar off Churchill then ran back to the camera to capture the image above. Karsh described the look on Churchills  face as belligerent but I would also say somewhat surprised, indignant but a little admiration too that someone would dare to do such a thing. This shot became one of the most famous images worldwide and placed Karsh on the international stage.

Jackson Pollock By Arnold Newman

Jackson Pollock by Arnold Newman (1949)
Jackson Pollock by Arnold Newman (1949)

It was another image by Arnold Newman that influenced my final outcomes. The image is of artist Jackson Pollock who was a complex and reclusive person whose peculiar artistic style reflected his personality. A somewhat agoraphobic personality he shunned visitors and attention and despite his agreement to have his image taken his expression suggests that this is about as far as he will go when it came to poses.

Pollock’s dis-interested body language works well as it is an accurate representation of him but also highlights the importance of the objects in the environment. Objects such as the skull behind Pollock. Skulls are often symbolic of death and it is unclear if this was remarkable foresight by Newman to leave it there or just a fortuitous portent but Pollock died a few years after this image was taken.

Despite Pollock’s celebrity status he does not appear to be a man over enamoured by public attention, his solitary nature meant he preferd to work in isolation and this is mirrored in his surroundings. Newman has also captured this element of his personality by including his understated workshop. It is quite possible that Pollock could have afforded a lavish well equipped studio but preferred to work in a more austere atmosphere.

From a technical perspective Newman would almost certainly have used a flash. The dark walls of the workshop and the seemingly lack of natural light would have meant he would have ad to bring his own lighting. Judging by the shadows I would think there are 2 lights in use. The key light is to the left of the photographer and it has lit up the paint tins and the subject but there could also be a second light from above the subject. There are some very small shadows on the face under the nose and on the cheek which leads me to think there is a light coming from the upper left of the image.

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