Thursday, July 2, 2009

David Bailey

While in Delhi, I buy a copy of Time Out (there is a quarter page on a series of talks that are being given, one of which is mine!) and includes a photograph of mine (the one I am presently using as my ID photo on the OCA website of 3 green bee eaters.) Might a photograph of a bird be considered a portrait? Presumably but the photograph here is a side-angled shot of three birds none of which are looking at the camera; portrait imples some kind of relationship between photographer and the one being photographed this is more like an illustration.

Also buy a copy of First City, a magazine not unlike Time Out. Here there is again mention of my talk and a different photo, one from a series I am doing about a park in India. The interesting thing about this magazine is that there is a photograph of David Bailey on the front not trying to hide his 73 years; inside, there is a small portfolio of his work containing classic images from the 1960's and more recent ones from the last decade. One might argue that David Bailey is more of a fashion photographer than a portrait photographer yet he has recorded the likeness of many notable people of his time while his images do suggest a meeting between photographer and subject which is surely a hallmark of the portrait; when a photograph is taken of a criminal for instance, there is something missing for most criminals seeming to be staring blankly at a camera that merely records their features while saying next to nothing about the person they belong to. Such photographs can leave one feeling as cold and alienated as the person being photographed apparently is.

Bailey himself says that a portrait session is all about what happens between him and the subject; he does not take many shots, perhaps half a dozen, yet those shots record this "private meeting".

Bailey's pin up as a youngman was not a gorgeous model like most of his contemporaries but a painting of a woman by Picasso; Picasso was his hero who he met but would not dare photograph and today he demonstrates a surprising knowledge of art. If there is one photographer whose images he seems to echo, it is surely Richard Avedon whose work he admits to liking.

Reading his interview is perhaps not as interesting as looking at his photographs.

As Bailey says, they are simple! A square with a plain usually white background and in black and white; even today, he still prefers film over digital, the latter allowing too much to be done later on which in turn destroys the moment he is recording. Some of his later portraits such as one of Tracey Emin are in colour; many have a sensuous, intimate, startling and tactile quality

Well, there are many other photographers whose work I would like to look at and books containing collections of portrait photographs are probably going to be the best way of doing this.

I might purchase course author's book on the Expert Digital Photographer's Guide to the Portrait which was suggested in the last module. I wonder if a history of portrait photography might be relevant (there is the danger of becoming an armchair photographer!) such as Max Kosloff's Theatre of the Face: portrait photography since 1900 (this would omit Margaret Cameron, an interesting nineteenth century portrait photographer) while more technical books that deal with lighting do not interest me although one book called Train Your Gaze by Roswell Angier might be worth considering. A useful book would be Fergus Greer's book on portraits by the world's great photographers. A book I already have that I shall look at again is Tete a Tete by Henri Cartier Bresson.

While travelling I am not going to have much access to these books but later on they could be relevant.

Time for my blog to end for now!


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