Posts Tagged ‘Portraiture’

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.

Cameron 003

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.

Cameron 002

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.

Cameron 001

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.

Avedon 003

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.

Avedon 002

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.

Avedon 004

Avedon 001

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.