Anthony is already an accomplished and successful photographer so it is fantastic that he has come to lecture at Coventry University and testament to the growing reputation of the course and its current standing as number 1 for photography in the country (the Guardian 2014)
Anthony told us about one of his projects where he worked with homeless people taking self portraits and there where two significant aspects to this talk that really stuck with me. The first was in response to my question about the choice of image composition. I have often spent a lot of time wondering why photographers choose to compose their shots the way they do and what thought processes they went through before making a final choice. In this instance the composition was largely dictated by the equipment that was being used.
The large format camera is a cumbersome piece of equipment and that challenge is only increased when you have to show a person how to use it. Another challenge with a large format camera is the incredible shallow depth of field and even Anthony himself admitted that he had lost images where he had ended up focusing on the ears or nose and the eyes had been blurry. The style of the subject in the centre looking at the camera with the the background defocused is consistent with other photographers who have taken portraits with this camera. Rineke Dijkstra for example
or August Sander
It is clear that although it is possible to compose the image differently the logistics risk the image never coming out correctly and when so much work has go into getting the subject into place I can understand taking the easier option. In all these cases the composition really works well and was probably the best method overall but I had never considered that the photographer had been almost forced into this composition style.
The second and perhaps the discovery that had the biggest effect was learning the extraordinary lengths that Anthony went to cultivate a relationship between him and his subjects. Prior to approaching anyone about taking a portrait he spent around 6 months volunteering in a soup kitchen, getting to know the residents and building trust. This was a real eye opener as a never really grasped the lengths that artists will go to complete a project. This becomes even more exceptional when you add into this that the financial rewards are often outweighed by the costs.
This was the first lecture by Anthony Luvera and he has instantly had an impact on me and I am really looking forward to future talks.