In this exercise, you’ll build on your ‘Background as context’ exercise in Part One by taking the relationship between your subject and their surroundings a step further. The objective here is to try to create a link between the two components of your image, i.e. the subject and their surroundings.I&P p.58
● Make three different portraits using three different subjects. Prior to shooting your portraits, engage with your subjects and agree three different specific locations which have some relevance or significance to them individually. You’ve already tried to give a particular context to a portrait by considering how the background might link to the subject positioned in the foreground, but now you must go one step further and negotiate a specific physical location where you’ll photograph your subject. This can either be inside or on location, but the key to this portrait is the interaction you’ve had with your subject in identifying a place that has specific meaning for them.
● Each portrait should be accompanied by a very short piece of text explaining the choice of location or venue. Don’t be tempted to create a work of complete fiction here; it might make life easier for you, but you’d be missing an opportunity to really engage with your subject and collaborate with them in the image-making process.
You have complete freedom to work this out as you feel appropriate; for example, you may choose to theme the narrative behind all three portraits. Think carefully about how these images could work together as a set. For instance, if you plan to shoot outside, try to make sure the lighting conditions/ time of day/weather conditions all work coherently.
Present all three images together as a series and reflect upon how successful this exercise was in your learning log or blog. Write around 500 words.
My initial thought was that I would be restricted to my immediate family, and was prepared to go with that. I then thought of Peter, a homeless chap who spends most dry, daylight hours of most days sitting outside the Catholic Church on Eltham High Street — I photographed him last year for C&N Exc. 1.2, 30 Street Photographs (fig. A1), and we talked about the Percival Camera Centre that used to be in business about 100 yards along the High Street. Peter is amenable to being photographed and so I thought that this would be at least one for the exercise outside the family.
I went shopping on 2nd, with no intention of looking for Peter, but decided to do so on the spur of the moment. On the way to his seat, I passed a busker and made the usual interrogatory gesture (waggle the camera and raise the eyebrows), to which he assented. I took the photograph and chatted briefly. His name was Chris.
The main compromise here is that I did not discuss where they wanted to be photographed, I took the photographs where they chose to be at that time on that day.
That said, the images are creditable representation of their subjects and sufficiently proximate to the brief as to be viable. [Use this sort of phraseology for the overall course summary – a fair likeness, sufficiently proximate to the brief as to be viable.]
Only three photographs were taken: the contacts sheet is shown in fig. E1.
[13Nov] Once again, as with Assignment 1, I was surprised at how co-operative people are – my score so far is ten requests, ten assents (seven for Asg.1, thee for this exercise): the police, armed and otherwise, in Exc 1.3 seemed more reluctant though I didn’t ask.
Implementation of the brief
‘Make three different portraits using three different subjects’ – this requirement was met.
‘Prior to shooting your portraits, engage with your subjects and agree three different specific locations which have some relevance or significance to them individually’ – this was compromised by virus distancing restrictions, although none of the subjects was wearing a mask. I did not discuss locations for the pictures, but Chris was where he chooses to be when he busks; Peter was where he spends most of his days; Darren was where he happened to be when I encountered him, but a portrait of Darren as a street sweeper would have to be on the street with his equipment.
I&P Exc 2.1 References
Boothroyd, S. and Roberts, K. (2019) Identity and place. Barnsley: Open College of the Arts. [I&P]