Tuesday, March 23, 2010

a visit to the National Portrait Gallery 2

Once again, time to visit the National Portrait Gallery.

There is an exhibition on downstairs of images by Sarah Brown. Although these are of famous people, the choice is interesting with captions that give some insight into how the photographs were made and the person who was portrayed.

I also looked at an exhibition of Mughal style paintings by the Singh sisters from Liverpool; another exhibition was about the Indian portrait. It was interesting to see these stylised works and although far removed from photography, there are certain parallels if only in composition.

Friday, March 19, 2010

workshop at the National Portrait Gallery

Have tried a few times to book for a workshop in portrait photography at the National Portrait Gallery but its' always been booked up. Today, I receive notification of another such workshop and rang to book; already, one day was fully booked but there were two places on the second day. However, the booking office were too busy to take my call! Managed to get a ticket however by phoning another number. The brief is ...

Taking inspiration from portraits in the Gallery’s Collection, photographer Emily Harris will lead this one day workshop exploring lighting used in traditional photographic portraiture influenced from Camera Obscura. The workshop will look at art from Sir Thomas Lawrence to Steve McQueen and use digital photography to produce beautifully lit portraits.

It'll be good to spend a day like this at what is perhaps the foremost portrait photography gallery in the country even for photography! A combination of both theory and practice seems appropriate.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010


At last, the first assignment has got underway. Katie, my thirteen year old model, contacted me to say she was ready to co-operate and so I went around to my next door neighbour's home.
The first series of photos was of Katie using the remote control with the photographer in the position of the TV. The second was of Katie dressed up as a choir girl. The third was of Katie playing the piano.
Then again, another session in town with Katie playing guitar in the street; she has recently gained a licence to perform.
Now the task of looking closely at the photographs and analysing the content.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Irving Penn at the National Portrait Gallery

Today there is a symposium on the current Irving Penn exhibition which I had hoped to attend but have not been able to. Here is a quote from the photographer dated 1975 ...

"Sensitive people faced with the prospect of a camera portrait put on a face which they think is one they would like to show the world ... very often what lies behind the facade is more rare and wonderful than the subject knows or dares to believe"

Reading through the information relating to the exhibition, two concepts stand out .. the importance of form and space within the photographic portrait. These seem worth considering.

No doubt I shall visit the exhibition and shall try and do it when there is an exhibition tour.

I do feel some reluctance though about this kind of exhibition. There is a lot of emphasis on the photographer rather than the photograph with the photographs tending to be mere portals for various celebrities or possibly people of more genuine merit. Although not against the cult of celebrity, my interest in the exhibition is that of a photographer considering the medium who is concerned with the way in which people are being portrayed rather than who they all are or once were.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

photographing the essence

A friend recently asked me to photograph someone and an appointment was arranged.

We went together to meet the lady at her house where she was staying with her mother. Her name is Shobana which means beauty and as she showed some old photographs of her self, it was clear that she was once beautiful and perhaps still is.

My friend seemed in a hurry to get the session over with. I was however feeling tired and was invited to lie down on a bed next door for awhile then given tea. After this, we had the photographic session but it did not go well. My friend did not help by telling Shobana where she should be looking and it was not until too late that I realised this was preventing the sitter from relaxing.

It is suggested that the photographer should be in control of the situation and while I agree to this to a certain extent, it seems that what needs to happen is for the photographer to allow the sitter to be relaxed enough to reveal a little of themselves.

After this session, I felt I had missed the subject. It would be too easy to blame my friend for orchestrating the occasion yet it had not been possible for me to find the essence of the subject through the lens and so the portrait session did not live up to expectations.

It was for me, a learning experience.