24 May 2022
Exciting times! I'm starting an online Photography MA course through Falmouth University, which is connected to Exeter University, which is a Russell Group University, which is the top-tier of UK Universities so... pretty cool!
Worth mentioning up front that this Critical Research Journal is part of an accredited educational programme and as such I will be adding pieces that I gather in the course of doing research. In all cases, I will be referencing the authorship and source of these materials.
Luckily, I was able to attend an Open Day at the Falmouth Penryn campus last weekend and extra luckily there were a few useful textbooks in the 'Free Box' in the Institute of Photography. I spent last night and most of today reading through 'The Photograph as Contemporary Art' (Cotton 2004) which helped me place my current art practice imagery of portraits of strangers from around the world as 'Deadpan Street Portraiture'.
Way back in 2001 I was travelling around SE Asia with a backpack and a 35mm camera kit shooting B&W and colour slide film. In the evenings I would sit with other backpackers and watch films and at some point I noticed that cinematographers often framed the actors tightly in the 16:9 aspect ratio using the rule of thirds to place them in their surroundings while also making the focus on the human subject.
Starting while I was still traveling around Asia I began asking strangers on the street if I could quickly photograph them, sometimes without even being able to speak their language properly. I would just learn the phrases for 'Can I take a photo?' and 'Thank you very much'.
Once I was back home in Portland I continued the series and have been adding to it here and there ever since.
Most of the time I just use the available light but other times I will bring along professional lighting equipment and make more of a production of it.
In this image of Tanya, who was a student in the Professional Photography degree course I used to lecture in I used an Elinchrom Ranger battery pack with a ringflash and another small softbox just over the camera.
I'm not entirely sure if I was aware of the work of Martin Schoeller when I started this series but the way that he has his subject pose with a neutral expression really resonates with me.
The even gaze allows the viewer to impose their own ideas about what the subject may be thinking.
To my way of thinking this creates the stopping power that I believe is the holy grail of image creation. I want to hold the viewers gaze for more than the split second that we usually devote to each of the hundreds of images that we come across each and every day.
COTTON, Charlotte. 2004. The Photograph as Contemporary Art. 3rd Edn. London: Thames & Hutton.
CALLARD, Abby. 2009. Q&A: The Technique Behind Martin Schoeller’s Photography. Smithson Magazine [Online]. Avaliable at: https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smithsonian-institution/the-technique-behind-martin-schoellers-photography-17906064/ [accessed 24 May 2022]