Archive for March, 2014

Julia Margaret Cameron was a British photographer. She became known for her portraits of celebrities of the time, and for photographs with Arthurian and other legendary or heroic themes.

 

“I longed to arrest all the beauty that came before me and at length the longing has been satisfied.” – Julia Margaret Cameron

Cameron’s photographic career was short, spanning eleven years of her life (1864–1875). She took up photography at the relatively late age of 48, when she was given a camera as a present. Although her style was not widely appreciated in her own day, her work has had an impact on modern photographers, especially her closely cropped portraits.

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At the time, photography was a labour-intensive art that also was highly dependent upon crucial timing. Sometimes Cameron was obsessive about her new occupation, with subjects sitting for countless exposures in the blinding light as she laboriously coated, exposed, and processed each wet plate. The results were, in fact, unconventional in their intimacy and their particular visual habit of created blur through both long exposures, where the subject moved and by leaving the lens intentionally out of focus.

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One of the reasons that many of Cameron’s portraits are significant is because they are often the only existing photograph of historical figures, becoming an invaluable resource.

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The main thing I take away from Cameron’s images is to maybe experiment a little with different techniques, i.e. blurring etc. Also, the way Cameron  used natural light to light the faces of her subjects is very beautiful. Shadows are very prominent and that’s another thing I’d like to try and play with in my own work. The photographs aren’t entirely to my taste, as the subjects seem soulless to me. The whole idea of portraiture to me is trying to show people’s emotions, but these photographs don’t show anything other than what people looked like in those days, to me.

 

Sources:

http://www.masters-of-photography.com

http://www.victoriaspast.com

Decided to have a look at Richard Avedon. He was an American portrait and fashion photographer.

 

“A photographic portrait is a picture of someone who knows he is being photographed, and what he does

with this knowledge is as much a part of the photograph as what he’s wearing or how he looks.” – Richard Avedon

Avedon started work as an advertising photographer for a department store in 1944, but by 1945 his images already appeared in fashion magazine Harper’s Bazaar. Only a year later, Avedon owned his own studio and began providing images for magazines such as Vogue and Life.

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Besides the fashion photography, Avedon also produced studio portraits of civil rights workers, politicians and various cultural dissidents of various walks of life in an America which was fuelled by anger and violence during the 1960’s. He also branched out and photographed protesters of the Vietnam war and, later, the fall of the Berlin Wall.

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Avedon was always interested in how portraiture captured the soul and personality of its subject. And with his reputation growing, he brought many famous faces into his studio, including Marilyn Monroe, The Beatles, Andy Warhol and British fashion model Twiggy.

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What I like about Avedon’s portraits is the minimalistic way in which he shoots his images. A lot of his work is in black and white, which is something I’ve always been very keen on in portraits. Depending on my ideas for the portrait modules, I will be trying to incorporate this into my own images.

Sources:

americansuburbx.com

fadedandblurred.com

genevaanderson.wordpress.com

morepicturesthanwords.tumblr.com

Last week’s task was to “shoot from the hip” and see what the results would be. All the shots are taken from hip/waist height and I’ve not done anything to them in Photoshop or elsewhere. I used my iPhone 5s for this task, as it was easier to carry around than my big Canon 550D. The only thing I did was stand still at certain moments in order to give it time to focus. I must say I’m surprised at how sharp the images are. Even though I gave the camera time to focus, I was expecting a certain amount of blur from camera shake as trying to take photographs on an iPhone from waist level is not as easy as it sounds. Struggled to hold my phone so that photographs would be upright and I was still able to press the button. Anyway, here are the images.

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For last week’s studio session, the task was to, as a group, come up with series of images. So no set theme, just do as we please, take some test shots and see what we can come up with. We decided to go for a low-key, kind of film noir set of images. After a bit, we started playing around with the lighting and we started using a fan to add a bit of wind to the shots. We looked on the internet for some inspiration and there were several images, including the following, that gave us ideas on what to do. It was a bit hard, as we couldn’t use proper cigarettes, but we used an electronic cigarette instead. However, the smoke isn’t the same at all. So our images may not be of such quality just yet, but it’s a good start.

Inspiration

For the first few, we used the following setup:

Lighting-Diagram-without-Fan-and-Lamp

Just a black background, with black reflector boards on the sides. Then we placed a strobe light with a snoot on the left, focussed on the face. These images of my fellow students are the result.

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For the second lot, the lighting was set up as followed:

Lighting-Diagram-with-Fan-and-Lamp

So the same thing, but now we added some backlighting behind the people and added a fan in some of the shots for a breezy effect of the hair. These are the resulting shots:

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I’m quite pleased with the results. I’m sure there’s plenty that we could improve on, but when I look at the small amount of experience I have in the studio and the resulting shots, I’m definitely happy enough. Perhaps we drifted off a little bit from our original idea of film noir, but I’ve gained quite a bit of knowledge from this session and it was the most fun I’ve ever had in a studio. So all in all, it was a good learning experience and hopefully what I’ve learned will be useful for future projects.

Eve Arnold was actually born as Eve Cohen, the daughter of Russian-Jewish parents.

She is one of the most famous portrait photographers to date. Her photographs of Marilyn Monroe are probably the most memorable ones, but she photographed many famous people. Malcolm X, Queen Elizabeth II and Jackie Kennedy are all part of her portfolio.

This is some of her work.

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I find some of her work absolutely fantastic. Her portraits of Marilyn Monroe from The Misfits (1961) for example. What I like about Eve Arnold is the fact that although she mixed with the rich and famous, she didn’t mind getting down and dirty with the poorer people in order to document their lives. It makes for a very varied portfolio. Not everything is to my taste, but that’s normal. In an interview for the BBC in 1990 she said:

“I don’t see anybody as either ordinary or extraordinary, I see them simply as people in front of my lens.”

To me, that’s how it should be…

 

Sources:

magnumphotos.com/evearnold

Philip-Lorca diCorcia is an American photographer, known for his staged compositions.

In the early 1990’s, he made five trips to Los Angeles in the US, financed by a fellowship he received in 1989. He shot a series of photographs, called ‘Hustlers’, of male prostitutes in Hollywood.

Some of his work is carefully staged, other parts are more coincidental. He would spend a lot of time thinking about the lighting. He would stage his subjects in a way that they’d be separate from the crowd, but would at times include the reactions and poses of accidental passers-by.

Here’s some of his work.

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These photographs are absolutely amazing in my opinion. The way the light lights up the subjects and the way it falls on the surrounding environment in fantastic. A master at work, if you ask me.

 

Sources:

thecollectiveshift.com/show/portfolio/diCorcia

Step 1

Use a photograph of a model on a plain white background, for easy usage. Then copy the layer using CMD + J.

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Step 2

Select the new layer and use the Wand Tool (W) to make a selection around the girl. Once done, it should look a little like this.

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When done, Inverse (CMD + SHIFT + I) the selection to select the girl rather than the background. Then Cut (CMD + C) the girl in and press the Backspace key in order to leave a hole in the background. The layer with the hole should look like this when we hide the other layer.

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Step 3

Now, we’re going to use Gaussian Blur on the layer with the empty space. We select the layer and then go to Filter -> Blur -> Gaussian Blur. In this case, I used a pixel radius of 35. This will soften the edges and make the girl blend in like normal once placed back into the image.

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Step 4

Now, we have to put the girl back into the image. We do this by using Paste in Place (CMD + SHIFT + V). If we look at the image without any layers hidden, it should look pretty much the way we started, but with several layers.

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Step 5

Now we can start messing with the background colour. Because the girl was photographed against a white background, it’s a bad idea to go for a dark coloured background. Otherwise, the edges will start showing and the image will definitely look Photoshopped.

To change the background colour, we have to add an adjustment layer onto the background layer. To do so, we select the background layer and use the little ‘contrast’ button (Screen shot 2014-03-06 at 11.59.14) at the bottom of the layer screen. We then select Hue/Saturation in order to change the colour. It will now look like this.

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As you can see in the layer panel, there is now an adjustment layer above the layer containing the background.

Now, click on ‘Colorize’ in the panel that’s appeared and have a play around with the Hue and Saturation sliders. You can even adjust the brightness if you want. The following is the end result in my case.

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John Hilliard, born in Lancaster in 1945, is an English conceptual artist. Hilliard showed that, although a camera can’t lie, the photographs can tell different truths. He did so with his work titled ‘Cause of Death’. It consisted of 4 images taken of the same human body covered with a sheet. Each photograph suggested a different cause of death, depending on how it was framed. Each photograph had a one word title, such as “Crushed”, “Drowned”, “Burned” and “Fell”. This showed that the framing of a photograph affects how a photograph is read.

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Hilliard also plays with the ideas of identity and culture. His portrait of an Asian woman, called ‘East/West’, was created in a way that that the stylised profile could be manipulated to represent different cultures. For some reason, I can not seem to find an image of this, which is a shame.

The following are some other examples of Hilliard’s work.

'Facade' and 'Flight of Happiness' 1982 by John Hilliard born 1945

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Yes/No, 2006

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Table For Four, 2003

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In Black-And-White And Colour (2), 2007

The images themselves aren’t really my kind of thing, but I do appreciate the ideas behind them. Such as the photograph of the woman in the orange dress. If you look properly, you see her in a green dress in the same overlaid image. It’s the classic case of the woman asking an opinion “Yes or no?”, when showing the dresses. Hence why the title is ‘Yes/No’. Simple, but effective is what I class that as. And similar ideas seem to carry on throughout his work.

 

Sources:

source.ie/archive/issue52/is52portfolio_John_Hilliard.php

melissapetersonart.wordpress.com

tate.org.uk

 

Another photographer I found when looking on the internet, who plays a lot with faceless portraits and portraits in which the faces are blurred or covered by something, is Rebecca Cairns. She is a photographer based in Toronto, Canada. One blog on the internet, ‘The Jealous Curator’, said about her: “Cindy Sherman meets Diane Arbus…with just a hint of The 6th Sense“.

That honestly isn’t very far off.

“My images are reminiscent of dreams-unclear, distorted and fictional- meant to portray the fact that throughout our everyday lives we are only passing figures through an infinite amount of space and time- impermanent and always fleeing.” – Rebecca Cairns

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The editing techniques used in Photoshop are done very well. Not quite sure whether she uses Photoshop for everything, but I know for a fact that she does for some of her images. The resulting effect being that most of her photographs have a very dreamy, nightmarish, almost haunted feel to them. Ghostlike figures, simply wandering through time. There’s something rather disturbing about them, in my opinion, with the black and white adding to that drama very well. And yet, they’re very captivating. I’m constantly trying to find something new in them, something I didn’t see before.

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Although looking at these images almost freaks me out, I really appreciate her work. Again, it plays with that idea of anonymity and she does it in a very cool way. I’ll be honest, I had never heard of her, so it is nice to be able to add this to my knowledge.

 

Sources:

serialoptimist.com/gallery-art/photography-feature-rebecca-cairns-3904.html

lamonomagazine.com

portable.tv

ineedaguide.blogspot.com

E.J. Bellocq was an American professional photographer, working in New Orleans during the early 20th century.

Most of his negatives and prints were destroyed after his death. However, a series called ‘The Storyville Portraits’ was later found and the photographs were later bought by Lee Friedlander and exhibited by John Szarkowski.

The series show the prostitutes of New Orleans and not only serve as a record of the prostitutes, but also the buildings and interiors that housed them. In a lot of the photographs, the faces have been scratched out on purpose. The reason why is unknown, but for me that’s what makes them quite fascinating.

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Because we are working on portraiture during the course, these images are interesting to me because of their historic value. It also feels rather strange to take someone’s portrait and then take away the head in one way or another. The head and the face in particular is often one of the most important parts of a portrait, as that is where much of the emotion comes from. So to deliberately take that away, for me, raises quite a few questions. There’s also the matter of anonymity. Take away their faces and these women could be anyone.

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I like the idea of taking a profession that has a kind of stigma, a taboo, attached to it and show the people in their natural surroundings. It’s kind of a cross between documentary and portraiture. And although the images are posed, judging by the expressions on some of the women’s faces it would seem that they were quite relaxed and that he’d been interacting with these women. I feel that’s the best way to take a portrait if your aim is to uncover the real emotions and feelings of a person. You have to get behind that mask people put on when they have their picture taken and the only way to do that is by making them feel comfortable. It’s a very fascinating and rather unnerving series of photographs to me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sources:

neworleansisrelentless.blogspot.com

nolavie.com

pinterest.com/pin/56083957829636061/

allpossiblefaces.tumblr.com

artnet.com

contemporarymediasurvey.wordpress.com

en.wikipedia.org/wiki/E._J._Bellocq