Archive for the ‘Portrait – Identities – Culture & Self’ Category

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.




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.


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.


For the first few, we used the following setup:


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.







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


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:











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.





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…



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.




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.



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.








The following are examples of different ways of looking:

  • Glance = To take a brief look (intentionally)
  • The following are several examples of different ways of looking:
  • Glimpse = To take a brief look (unintentionally)
  • Stare = To give a rude look to somebody.
  • Gaze = To give a romantic look to somebody.
  • Contemplate = To observe deeply.
  • Skim = To read inattentively.
  • Scan = To read with attention.
  • Peek = To take a brief look, secretly.
  • Peep = To take a long look, secretly.
  • Peer = To observe searching something.

However, when it comes to portrait photography, the meaning of ‘gaze’ is often rather different.

Gaze is a psychoanalytical term brought into popular usage by Jacques Lacan to describe the anxious state that comes with the awareness that one can be viewed. The psychological effect, Lacan argues, is that the subject loses a degree of autonomy upon realizing that he or she is a visible object. This concept is bound with his theory of the mirror stage, in which a child encountering a mirror realizes that he or she has an external appearance. Lacan suggests that this gaze effect can similarly be produced by any conceivable object such as a chair or a television screen. This is not to say that the object behaves optically as a mirror; instead it means that the awareness of any object can induce an awareness of also being an object.

Broad Lighting


Broad lighting is when the subject’s face is slightly turned away from centre, and the side of the face which is toward the camera (is broader) is in the light. This produces a larger area of light on the face, and a shadow side which appears smaller. Broad lighting is sometimes used for “high key” portraits. This type of lighting makes a person’s face look broader or wider (hence the name) and can be used on someone with a very slim face to widen it. Most people however want to look slimmer, not wider so this type of lighting would not be appropriate for someone who is heavier or round faced.

Broad Lighting

To create broad lighting the face is turned away from the light source. Notice how the side of the face that is towards the camera has the most light on it and the shadows are falling on the far side of the face, furthest from the camera. Simply put broad lighting illuminates the largest part of the face showing.

Short Lighting


Short lighting is the opposite of broad lighting. As you can see by the example here, short lighting puts the side turned towards the camera (that which appears larger) in more shadow. It is often used for low key, or darker portraits. It puts more of the face in shadow, is more sculpting, add 3D qualities, and is slimming and flattering for most people.

Short Lighting

In short lighting, the face is turned towards the light source this time. Notice how the part of the face that is turned away from the camera has the most light on it and the shadows are falling on the near side of the face, closet to the camera. Simply put short lighting has shadows on the largest part of the face showing.

Rembrandt Lighting


Rembrandt lighting is so named because the Rembrandt the painter often used this pattern of light in his paintings, as you can see in his self portrait here. Rembrandt lighting is identified by the triangle of light on the cheek. Unlike loop lighting where the shadow of the nose and cheek do not touch, in Rembrandt lighting they do meet which, creates that trapped little triangle of light in the middle. To create proper Rembrandt lighting make sure the eye on the shadow side of the face has light in it and has a catch light, otherwise the eye will be “dead” and not have a nice sparkle. Rembrandt lighting is more dramatic, so like split lighting it creates more mood and a darker feel to your image. Use it appropriately.


Rembrandt Lighting

To create Rembrandt lighting the subject must turn slightly away from the light. The light must be above the top of their head so that the shadow from their nose falls down towards the cheek. Not every person’s face is ideal for creating Rembrandt lighting. If they have high or prominent cheek bones it will probably work. If they have a small nose or flat bridge of the nose, it may be difficult to achieve. Again, keep in mind you don’t have to make exactly this pattern or another, just so long as the person is flattered, and the mood you want is created – then the lighting is working. If you are using window light and the window goes down to the floor, you may have to block off the bottom portion with a gobo or card, to achieve this type of lighting.

Butterfly Lighting


Butterfly lighting is aptly named for the butterfly shaped shadow that is created under the nose by placing the main light source above and directly behind the camera. The photographer is basically shooting underneath the light source for this pattern. It is most often used for glamour style shots and to create shadows under the cheeks and chin. It is also flattering for older subjects as it emphasizes wrinkles less than side lighting.

Butterfly Lighting

Butterfly lighting is created by having the light source directly behind the camera and slightly above eye or head level of the subject (depends on the person). It is sometimes supplemented by placing a reflector directly under their chin, with the subject themselves even holding it! This pattern flatters subjects with defined or prominent cheek bones and a slim face. Someone with a round, wide face would look better with loop or even split to slim their face. This pattern is tougher to create using windowlight or a reflector alone. Often a harder light source like the sun or a flash is needed to produce the more defined shadow under the nose.

The following images were the ones we shot ourselves in the studio today.

Broad Lighting

Broad Lighting

Butterfly Lighting

Butterfly Lighting

Short Lighting

Short Lighting

I am quite pleased with the lighting in the images. Perhaps the Butterfly technique could’ve been better, as the shadows aren’t very defined.


This task is all about identity. “Who am I?”…


Just after birth

I’m Jasper Rimmelzwaan, at the time of writing 33 years old and the father of two step-daughters (18 and 24) and one daughter (5). I was born in The Hague in The Netherlands in January, 1981. My father started at the bottom of the ladder  of the oil company FINA, before becoming the head of their engineering department in The Netherlands. FINA later merged with Total. My mother did administrative work for a company before becoming a full-time housewife. Now, my father’s retired and my mother’s doing the administrative work for a bailiff’s office and plans to retire next year. I also have an older brother, who is a partner at an accountancy firm in The Netherlands.


Jasper chilling in his onesie


Celebrating ‘Queens Day’ in Holland

Because of my father’s job, especially, we have had a very comfortable life when it comes to the financial side of things. This enabled us to take nice breaks and holidays. When my dad was about 50 or so, he decided to buy a motorcycle. Over the years, he and myself have been on many bike holidays. In Europe and the United States. To be honest, I was rather lucky that both my mother and brother weren’t keen on bikes… otherwise I wouldn’t have seen so much of the world.


Brushing the path at the caravan

In 2003 I met the woman who is now my wife, on the internet. She was from England in the UK, which was a bit of a problem. However, after travelling back and forth for a year and some huge phone bills, I decided to make the move to England. So in 2004 all my belongings were loaded into a lorry and driven to England by my dad. In 2007 we got married and in 2008 we had a little baby girl together. We’re still married.

I’ve been a big football supporter for many, many years. Both in The Netherlands, with ADO Den Haag and in England, with Manchester City FC. Football has always been a passion. I’ve always owned season tickets and once I support a club it means everything to me.

Dressed as a Smurf for school 'Carnival'

Dressed as a Smurf for school ‘Carnival’

At the Grand Canyon

At the Grand Canyon

From the age of 21, I’ve had trouble with herniated and slipped discs in my back. That’s why, in 2004, just before I made the move to England, I had my first back surgery. Everything was alright for about a year, after which I started to develop back problems again. It took years to get the medical help required, but in 2009 I was finally operated on for the same problem once more. These surgeries have now left me disabled, because the scar tissue has surrounded the nerves that go into my leg and causes severe nerve pains in my leg. It leaves me unable to walk properly on a regular basis.

Winning at Poker

Winning at Poker

In 2012, I decided to take up a photography course at The Manchester College. I completed this course in 2013 with a distinction. This lead to me enrolling onto the course you’re reading about here, which is the foundation degree (FdA) in Contemporary Photography.

So to sum up as to who I am… I am the son of middle/upper class parents, a father and husband, an immigrant, a football supporter, a disabled person and a student photographer. All these things have played a big part in shaping my life.

The self portrait I took for this task is one that pretty much has everything that’s made me who I am today…

Who I am...

Who I am…

It shows my walking stick, for my disability. It shows my football shirt, symbolising both my passion for football as well as my nationality. It shows the English countryside, which stands for my emigration. And it shows me, the child my parents had… and they raised me into who I am today.