Category Archives: Part 1 – People aware

Photographer – Garry Winogrand

Another photographer my tutor has introduced to me is Garry Winogrand. His work is a stark contrast to that of contemporary photographer Martin Parr (For link on Martin Parr post please click here)

Garry Winogrand (1928–1984) was born in New York, where he lived and worked during much of his life. Winogrand photographed the visual cacophony of city streets, people, rodeos, airports and animals in zoos. These subjects are among his most exalted and influential work.

Winogrand’s work resembles that of Vivian Maier (please see post here)

They both sought out the interesting subjects and opportunities on the streets of their respective cities in the mid 50s and 60s. Again, their work is simplistic and captivating.

Winogrand has an extreme talent of capturing expressions, something which I aim to improve on in my personal photography.

Here’s a few of my favourites from a huge archive of some of the best black and white portrait and street photography I’ve seen to date.

Winogrand captures people in the moment, going about their day, engaging in some sort of activity. Whether it be driving, having a natter in the park, or having a few cocktails. His laid back story telling style feel so natural yet alluring – thanks to his composition and impeccable timing.

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Assignment 1: A portrait

Take one person as a subject and create between five and seven different portraits. These should differ in type and style, and each be from a separate photographic session.

This assignment brief seems fairly straightforward. It’s very autumnal outside and I knew this would work well visually, with colours and the position of the sun. As soon as my brother, Jim, agreed to be my model I began planning locations, poses, time of day etc. I wanted a mixture of cropping, e.g. cropped face, full length etc and also wanted to include some indoor and outdoor, some day some night, and some black and white and colour photographs.

Lighting Up:

I love the strong shadows in this picture. They worked perfectly in providing a ‘frame’ for the shoot. The hint of graffiti on the back wall enhances the urban feel of the shot. I am happy with the strong lighting as it produced several strong shadows of my subject.

Skatepark session:

This shot was fairly difficult technically speaking. My subject was moving, so I knew from the outset that I’d need a fast shutter speed to capture Jim clearly. I also switched to continuous shoot mode to take rapid bursts as this would help me capture the movement in focus. As it was a night shoot I had to use a fairly high ISO and a narrow aperture to counter the fast shutter speed. Luckily thanks to the burst sequence of shots, I was able to use one where Jim is in front of the bright street light, causing a halo affect that I think works really well.

A Close Shave:

I wanted to capture part of Jim’s day to day activities, and a shot that was less set up and more natural. I wanted to shoot just over his left shoulder, capturing most of his face but not all of it, in the reflection.

Urban Modelling:

As soon as I saw this wall I loved the contrasting orange and green colours, and the very basic tagging on the wall made for some interesting shapes. I directed Jim in his posing, to create an almost fashion pose. I  like that you can only see one of his shoes, and one ripped knee.

Night Lights:

I wanted to include an image that had the face partially cropped. To add some interest to the image I positioned Jim in front of some fairy lights, and we decided a beanie would add depth to the image as it’s another element within the shot. I like how the detail of his face has been captured – from his pores to his beard. It’s sharp and evident.

Autumn Strolling:

This is probably my least successful shot, in that I should have used my prime 50mm lens. Using said lens would have produced a more blurred background which would have directed attention to Jim and also added an aesthetic element to the image. I’ve kept it in my final selects however, as I really like the colours captured and the idea of a portrait that does not include and features.

Half Lit:

Finally my favourite image from the set. I wanted to recreate a ‘studio’ type shot so positioned a strong light to the left of my model (from the photographers point of view). I wanted parts of his face and body to be totally obscured by shadow, so the only light source in the room came from the one artificial light.

Assessment Criteria:

Demonstration of Technical and Visual Skills:

Overall, I’m happy with the series of images I have produced, and their varied styles.

I paid close attention to the lighting available, whether this was a natural light source, or artificial source. I pre-visualised the ‘Half Lit’ photo the most, and had a concrete idea in my head of what I wanted to achieve visually. This shot took the most setting up and preparation, and this is perhaps why it is my favourite. I had complete control over all aspects – the light strength, height, distance from my model, the height of the stool my model was sitting on, the darkness of the room we were shooting in, the model’s pose and so on.

I’m glad I chose to include both colour and black and white shots as this adds variety. However, I’m aware that as a series of photographs this does perhaps hinder the overall feel of a set of images, as there is no constant style or theme throughout.

 

Quality of Outcome:

I am happy with the quality of the overall outcome in terms of individual images. I feel each shot is strong in terms of representing the brief.

‘Autumn Strolling’ is my weakest image. I decided to keep it in the series as it is a good concept in my opinion (a portrait where the face and features are totally obscured, and the autumnal colours really pop) but if I were to re-shoot it I’d have used a much wider aperture blurring the background significantly. This was human error in that I had gone out on the shoot without my prime lens – which would have been perfect for capturing this.

Demonstration of Creativity:

I think my creativity using light and shadows has been fairly apparent in this series. Seeking a location that would provide strong shadow casts on walls that I could use to frame my subject like in ‘Lighting Up’ has worked really well. With ‘Half Lit’ I was able to use artificial lighting to produce an interesting effect where certain areas are lit, and other areas are dark. I was adamant that I wanted to do several night shots, and realised I could use the strong streetlight at the skatepark to my advantage by timing the shot right so that Jim was obstructing the light, resulting in a halo like effect around him. (Had he not been in front of the light I fear it may have been a distraction and too bright.)

I’ve included at least one shot from each category of portrait photography that we learnt previously. Cropped face, head and shoulders, torso, full length and active portrait. I’ve included shots where there is no eye contact, and full eye contact making my selection as varied as possible.

Context:

So far portrait photography is the area I’m least familiar with. This is most likely because of the pressures it seems to bring with it, such as time and the fact that you are in full control of another person. I think as I get stronger with my portraits my confidence will grow and I’ll find myself doing far more portrait work in my personal portfolio. I have however photographed people unaware fairly often, so perhaps it’s the conscious pressure of instructing a model and maintaining eye contact (through the lens) that I sometimes find intimidating.

I now hope to research in depth portrait photographers,styles I like and dislike, and get a greater understanding of photographing people as a whole.

Exercise: An active portrait (P&P)

Discuss with your potential subject what kind of natural activity they would would be interested in and whether this would be indoors or outdoors. Avoid fast moving activity and preoccupy your subject.

This exercise was fairly straightforward – my brother is a dab hand at magic and was practising some card tricks. It was a relaxed location, and I was sitting with him chatting to make sure it did not look posed or staged.

I positioned myself to the left of Jim, in order to get the pattern of the cards and to capture a more interesting angle of the hands and the shuffle. I did not want him front on as I wanted to shoot almost fully side on to capture his expression, and to not lose any of his features as he is looking down. If this was front on I think I may have lost facial detail.

Exercise: Portrait – scale & setting (P&P)

Find an interesting and attractive setting for a portrait and produce the following 4 scales of portrait:

  • Face, cropped in close
  • Head and shoulders
  • Torso, taking into account arms and hands
  • Full figure

When you have processed the images, consider how a viewer will react to each portrait in terms of weight of attention to different elements.

Face, cropped in close:

The main focal point here, as would be expected on such a close up portrait is the eyes. I’ve used a wide aperture to soften the background almost to beyond recognition, as this pulls focus away from distracting objects and re-focuses on the eyes firstly, and then the other facial features.

Head and shoulders:

The eyes are still the main focus here, but also the positioning of the hand under the chin adds an aesthetic element. The fence in the background is more in focus, adding depth to the image.

Torso (arms taken into account)

The background has a stronger part to play in this image, and it now becomes evident that the shoot is by a bridge. I wanted to put another element in full focus to add layering to the image – the tree trunk. Now we have several objects (my model and the tree) as the initial focal points, rather than just the model. I think instant focus still lands directly on my model, and her face.

Full length:

In this image I would say the majority of the frame is in focus – my model, the tree, the ground, leaves and the water and bridge. As my model is in the centre of the frame the initial attention falls on her, and then the eye scans the rest of the image.

Conclusion:

This was a fun exercise to do and made me as the photographer consider a multitude of elements – lighting, positioning of the face, the body, the arms, myself, aperture, how much of the background I wanted to be be blurred etc. I decided in order to add a tiny bit of creativity to a relatively straightforward exercise that I’d convert the two images where my model is not looking into the lens to black and white. Working on a project/shoot that involves a model calls for decisiveness and awareness of several factors such as time, temperature, perhaps a location change etc. I think it’s important to visit shoot locations, if possible, before the day of shooting to get a rough idea of potential backgrounds, props, posing areas etc.