Wednesday, October 12, 2011

reflections on assignment 1 : extended portrait session

When I sent off my first assignment, I wondered if I might not have done more to present it better. For instance, the photographs that were taken of a thirteen year old, Katy at thirteen is the title I gave the assignment, were placed in the order they were taken which spanned almost a full year. Might not a more formal presentation have been better!?

If I did make a mistake, it was in not being clear about which photographs were part of the portfolio; others were included to give an idea of the way I went about the selection of images, an approach revealed in Sarah Greenough's book about Robert Frank's famous photo-book, The Americans, in which his contact sheets are revealed publically for the first time, allowing one to see something of the working process in the making of the original book.

Instead of gaining some insight into the way I went about this project, the tutor has therefore reviewed images that were not meant to invite comment and were only incidental to the actual portfolio, being mere rejects for reference only. Hence, the comment that "Although you do get good eye contact in most of these photos, her jolly expression and smiling eyes – although beautiful – are a little boring to have to view in almost every photograph" relates more to the excluded photos than the original portfolio which has only one image that is smiling definitely. Of course, there is a trend in photographic portraiture to include only portraits with gravitas, a certain kind of expressionless look, but personally I am more interested in people who look alive. 

Some of the tutor's comments are interesting but need time to absorb. He writes, "You are seeking a subtle moment in some of these portraits, similar to Vermeer, where the person is somewhat aloof from their surroundings, as if at the same time engaged and free." Is that really my situation? Maybe it is a comment on myself as photographer. I find myself trying to discover the person I am confronted with. I may know them well but to find the face behind the mask is my real concern; possibly it is an impossible one since the real face may not be visual. As the Buddhists say, "Show me the face you had before you were born!" This is impossible and the question is a humorous one although it is worth contemplating since we did have a face of sorts before we were born. 

Is &&&&& showing us his real face? Probably, it is just another mask.

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