Tag: Photography

For William Eggleston, People Are Like Parking Lots – The New York Times

The portraiture of William Eggleston, whose color photography helped shepherd the medium into the art world, is the exclusive feature of a new exhibit and book.

Source: For William Eggleston, People Are Like Parking Lots – The New York Times

Some notes from the ‘William Eggleston Portraits’ exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery. Eggleston is known as a pioneer in the development of colour art photography because of his images of everyday urban American life, his use of the dye transfer process (in his search for the ‘ultimate quality colour print’ – at the time the process was used for high-end commercial work), and due to his solo show at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, in 1976. This show is widely considered to be a key moment in the recognition of colour photography as a contemporary art form.

The exhibition groups together around a hundred of Eggleston’s portraits, many untitled and never exhibited before, from his early black and white work to better known colour photographs.


Source: New York Times

For many of the portraits, including diners, shoppers, people waiting for a bus, the subjects are unaware. For others, including the Nightclub Portraits (1973) subjects seem to be, or clearly were, aware of the camera and were presumably asked to pose.


From the Nightclub Portraits (1973). Source: https://ushistorians.wordpress.com

The Nightclub Portraits were taken in bars and clubs around Memphis using a large format (5×7) camera and a portable lighting set up. I had come across a smaller selection of these portraits before in the Everything was Moving exhibition a couple of years ago at the Barbican.

A portrait is also featured of Eggleston’s friend, ‘an eccentric dentist’ T.C. Boring. Boring stands naked in a blood red bedroom with graffiti covered walls (‘God’, ‘Mona’, ‘Walker’), bed unmade, cigarette left on the sideboard (close to burning it) and remote control and lamp at the edge of the [tight] frame. The exhibition guide notes suggest this was the same bedroom as the location for Eggleston’s most famous ‘Red Ceiling’ photograph taken in 1973.

The introductory notes to the exhibition refer to Eggleston embracing the snapshot style – but notes that the photographs are not straightforward documentary or sentimental, and as a result the viewer is asked ‘to find something more valuable and elusive in the images’. Much of the commentary on the exhibition also rates to Eggleston’s ‘democratic’ style and ambiguous images (see 1 and 2 in Sources section for reviews).

The exhibition runs until 23 October 2016 at the National Portrait Gallery (see 3 below).

Sources
1. The New York Times – Lens Blog. http://lens.blogs.nytimes.com/2016/08/18/highly-personal-portraiture-by-william-eggleston/
2. Review in the Guardian https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2016/jul/20/william-eggleston-portraits-review-momentous-trivial-marvellous
3. National Portriat Gallery http://www.npg.org.uk/whatson/eggleston/exhibition.php

OCA People and Place – People Aware: Varying the pose

An exercise to work through variations in pose. The course material suggests reviewing magazines beforehand to get an idea of variety. Even though a lot of the set-ups and poses are just unrealistic in a home setting (I was looking at Numero, Sunday Times Style supplement etc) it was useful, for thinking about variations within poses, and placement of limbs, in particular where to place hands. As in previous exercises, I asked a member of the family to pose for me – pretty much essential given the amount of patience needed on their part.

There were quite a few constraints to deal with doing this…

– For some of the images (1-4 below) I used a backdrop, but subsequently abandoned it. I got it cheap and it was pretty much impossible to get the creases out. It also wasn’t really big enough (hence the exposed flooring on a couple of the images). You get what you pay for I suppose, but I’m now going to invest in some decent seamless paper backdrops.
– Initially I used a tripod with a cable release as I wanted to keep the framing consistent and use a reasonably low ISO rating (although see below on light source). I decided to drop this as it was pretty tedious moving the whole kit about every time I wanted to get a different pose.
– I used a softbox for light, which didn’t have a lot of power, so I did need to keep the ISO pretty high (for the majority of images I couldn’t use slower shutter speeds as I had given up on the tripod). The answer here I realise would have been bigger lights.
– I was also very limited on space in my place, which was a real constraint when the subject was standing, and meant that I couldn’t use always use a long focal length (these were all taken with a 24-70mm zoom – so I could be flexible – actual focal length for each image stated in descriptions below).

1). 36mm, f/4, 1/125 second, ISO 1600.
1). 36mm, f/4, 1/125 second, ISO 1600.
2). 56mm, f/5.6, 1/20 second, ISO 1600.
2). 56mm, f/5.6, 1/20 second, ISO 1600.
3). 48mm, f/4, 1/80 second, ISO 3200.
3). 48mm, f/4, 1/80 second, ISO 3200.
4). 55mm, f/4, 1/180 second, ISO 3200.
4). 55mm, f/4, 1/180 second, ISO 3200.
5). 48mm, f/4, 1/90 second, ISO 3200.
5). 48mm, f/4, 1/90 second, ISO 3200.
6). 48mm, f/4, 1/90 second, ISO 3200.
6). 48mm, f/4, 1/90 second, ISO 3200.
7). 48mm, f/4, 1/90 second, ISO 3200.
7). 48mm, f/4, 1/90 second, ISO 3200.
8). 44mm, f/4, 1/90 second, ISO 3200.
8). 44mm, f/4, 1/90 second, ISO 3200.
9). 45mm, f/4, 1/90 second, ISO 3200.
9). 45mm, f/4, 1/90 second, ISO 3200.
10). 48mm, f/4, 1/60 second, ISO 3200.
10). 48mm, f/4, 1/60 second, ISO 3200.
11). 48mm, f/4, 1/90 second, ISO 3200.
11). 48mm, f/4, 1/90 second, ISO 3200.
12). 48mm, f/4, 1/125 second, ISO 3200.
12). 48mm, f/4, 1/125 second, ISO 3200.
13). 48mm, f/4, 1/90 second, ISO 3200.
13). 48mm, f/4, 1/90 second, ISO 3200.
14). 55mm, f/4, 1/125 second, ISO 3200.
14). 55mm, f/4, 1/125 second, ISO 3200.
15). 48mm, f/4, 1/60 second, ISO 3200.
15). 48mm, f/4, 1/60 second, ISO 3200.
16). 60mm, f/4, 1/645 second, ISO 3200.
16). 60mm, f/4, 1/645 second, ISO 3200.
17). 70mm, f/4, 1/90 second, ISO 3200.
17). 70mm, f/4, 1/90 second, ISO 3200.
18). 70mm, f/4, 1/60 second, ISO 3200.
18). 70mm, f/4, 1/60 second, ISO 3200.
19). 66mm, f/4, 1/90 second, ISO 3200.
19). 66mm, f/4, 1/90 second, ISO 3200.

OCA People and Place – People Aware: Focal length

This exercise demonstrates the result of varying focal length on a portrait, with progressively more distortion from wideangle (24mm), compared to standard focal length (50mm here), or medium/telephoto (70mm and 85mm). The longer focal lengths produce more attractive results. Elements of the face at wide angle are often out of proportion, whereas longer lenses have the effect of flattening features. While aperture will also be important, depth of field is reduced with a longer lens, so the background is thrown of out focus to a greater extent. The series below also illustrates that more of the background is included with a shorter lens (although note the barrelling, which is probably exaggerated by relatively wide aperture at f/4). While for a formal portrait this is unlikely to be desirable, wide angle lenses are used more commonly in reportage where inclusion of surroundings add context to the subject of the photograph.

85mm, f/4, 1/125 second, ISO 4500.
85mm, f/4, 1/125 second, ISO 4500.
70mm, f/4, 1/250 second, ISO 4500.
70mm, f/4, 1/250 second, ISO 4500.
50mm, f/4, 1/250 second, ISO 4500.
50mm, f/4, 1/250 second, ISO 4500.
24mm, f/4, 1/250 second, ISO 4500.
24mm, f/4, 1/250 second, ISO 4500.

OCA People and Place – People Aware: Eye contact and expression/Review a portrait sequence

This exercise involves setting up a portrait session, and taking a sequence of portraits where the subject is looking directly into the camera, or away from it, and using judgement to determine which produces the better image. As with most of these exercises, I asked a member of the family to pose for me – I’m not sure someone that I didn’t know would have the patience. I used a simple set-up, with the camera on a tripod, and a cable release (so easier to talk to the subject and no need to constantly be looking through the viewfinder) and used the same focal length throughout. This set up also meant that I could ensure that roughly the same amount of space was occupied by the subject in each frame. I took these outside with a softbox to brighten the shadows (behind the camera to the right of the subject at about 45 degrees) and a reflector to the left of the subject to even up the lighting on the face. Again using an identical set-up throughout meant that the lighting would be consistent across all of the images. As I knew the subject it was easy to give a bit of direction where needed to make sure I produced a reasonably varied set of photographs in terms of where the gaze was and position of the head.

I did this exercise in conjunction with the next in the course material, which asks for a review of a portrait sequence. The number of asterisks against each image below indicates my rating. As requested in the course notes, I have rated each image as either not good (*), acceptable (**), good (***) and identified what I think is the single best shot (****). I should be upfront and state here that most of the poorer quality images (which were either not sharp enough or there was really obvious flaws such as the subject’s eyes being closed) didn’t make it past my editor. I also had to be selective in what I have posted since some of the differences in expression or pose were very marginal. The course notes suggest that at least 20 images are taken. I had a set of over 70 (I stopped at this as I thought I had exhausted the possible variations but, on reflection, I could have taken more face on with the head straight – and perhaps altered the positioning of the subject in the frame).

The checklist in the course notes is a useful guide for assessing portraits – I mainly concentrated on composition, angle of the head, and facial expression. I’d managed to control for some of the other criteria mentioned through my set-up (e.g. using a plain background so no distractions were behind the subject, making sure nothing else was in the frame so the whole series is simple, and the lighting balance was good due to the use of external light and a reflector as well as ambient light, and the lighting is consistent across the sequence). I took some notes throughout, and started off with some fairly standard portraits with the subject looking into the camera and then a number where the gaze was away to varying degrees (1 through to 7 below). The portraits where the subject is more side on to the camera (8 through to 14) are probably a less typical pose for a portrait. I thought these would be the better shots when I took them and took a fair number with subtle variations to gesture and pose but, after reviewing them, I don’t have enough of the subject’s head in the shot and they look a little awkward (for a further edit I would be inclined to crop so the white space to the right is not so prominent). However, I think these work better than the similar sequence where the other side of the subject’s side of the face is closest to the camera (19-22), perhaps because this position didn’t feel as natural to the subject, and there wasn’t actually much space on this side for her to look into. After reviewing the whole set I would say the better shot is probably where the subject is face on (16). It’s a fairly formal pose but the subject is at ease, with the head to a slight angle.

1. 85mm, 1/20 second, f/4, ISO 100.***
1. 85mm, 1/20 second, f/4, ISO 100.***
2. 85mm, 1/20 second, f/4, ISO 100.**
2. 85mm, 1/20 second, f/4, ISO 100.**
3. 85mm, 1/20 second, f/4, ISO 100.**
3. 85mm, 1/20 second, f/4, ISO 100.**
4. 85mm, 1/20 second, f/4, ISO 100.*
4. 85mm, 1/20 second, f/4, ISO 100.*
5. 85mm, 1/20 second, f/4, ISO 100.*
5. 85mm, 1/20 second, f/4, ISO 100.*
6. 85mm, 1/20 second, f/4, ISO 100.**
6. 85mm, 1/20 second, f/4, ISO 100.**
7. 85mm, 1/20 second, f/4, ISO 100.**
7. 85mm, 1/20 second, f/4, ISO 100.**
8. 85mm, 1/30 second, f/4, ISO 100.**
8. 85mm, 1/30 second, f/4, ISO 100.**
9. 85mm, 1/30 second, f/4, ISO 100.*
9. 85mm, 1/30 second, f/4, ISO 100.*
10. 85mm, 1/30 second, f/4, ISO 100.**
10. 85mm, 1/30 second, f/4, ISO 100.**
11. 85mm, 1/30 second, f/4, ISO 100.**
11. 85mm, 1/30 second, f/4, ISO 100.**
12. 85mm, 1/20 second, f/4, ISO 100.**
12. 85mm, 1/20 second, f/4, ISO 100.**
13. 85mm, 1/20 second, f/4, ISO 100.**
13. 85mm, 1/20 second, f/4, ISO 100.**
14. 85mm, 1/30 second, f/4, ISO 100.*
14. 85mm, 1/30 second, f/4, ISO 100.*
15. 85mm, 1/20 second, f/4, ISO 100.**
15. 85mm, 1/20 second, f/4, ISO 100.**
16. 85mm, 1/20 second, f/4, ISO 100.****
16. 85mm, 1/20 second, f/4, ISO 100.****
17. 85mm, 1/20 second, f/4, ISO 100.*
17. 85mm, 1/20 second, f/4, ISO 100.*
18. 85mm, 1/20 second, f/4, ISO 100.**
18. 85mm, 1/20 second, f/4, ISO 100.**
19. 85mm, 1/20 second, f/4, ISO 100.*
19. 85mm, 1/20 second, f/4, ISO 100.*
20. 85mm, 1/20 second, f/4, ISO 100.*
20. 85mm, 1/20 second, f/4, ISO 100.*
21. 85mm, 1/20 second, f/4, ISO 100.**
21. 85mm, 1/20 second, f/4, ISO 100.**
22. 85mm, 1/20 second, f/4, ISO 100.**
22. 85mm, 1/20 second, f/4, ISO 100.**

London Super Comic Con

Incredible cosplayers at London Super Comic Con, which took place at the Excel Centre last weekend, 20-21 February. Thanks to the organisers for providing me with a press pass and to the Londonist for using some of my images on their Art and Photography pages (link to article here).

Miss Mojo Jones. Moondragon. missmojojones.tumblr.com

London Super Comic Con, 2016

The Joker. Thunderstruck Cosplay. www.facebook.com/Thunderstruck-Cosplay-337461836441307/

London Super Comic Con, 2016

Mia Bella Nadia – Wonderwoman.

London Super Comic Con, 2016

X-gene cosplay (Rikke) as Phoenix (Emma Frost). www.facebook.com/XGeneCosplay

London Super Comic Con, 2016
London Super Comic Con, 2016

DistractoGal as Phoenix twitter.com/DistractoGal

London Super Comic Con, 2016

OCA People and Place – People Aware: An active portrait

The idea of this exercise is for the subject to be preoccupied and involved in some sort of activity, but the image shouldn’t necessarily capture the activity itself. The focus should be the person and the facial expression. I can appreciate the role of active portraits, particularly in magazine and newspaper features, where the subject wouldn’t be asked to pose, but instead would be taking part in an familiar activity, and sometimes perhaps not even aware of the camera. It’s not a style of that I am used to, at least where the subject is aware that you are taking their portrait, and I should have tried to capture the subject in a more engaging activity here as the image has little to draw to the viewer’s attention. As the course notes explain, a large number of images are usually needed to edit down from (inevitably there will be gestures that look awkward, hands obscuring the face etc).

Texting. 85mm, 1/125 second, f/2.8, ISO 4500.
Texting. 85mm, 1/125 second, f/2.8, ISO 4500.

OCA People and Place – People Aware: Experimenting with light

An exercise involving portraits, ideally using the same subject and framing, but different lighting conditions. I needed to have a couple of attempts at this. While on the first attempt I was doing different things, the difference in lighting effect was marginal so I did them again, using natural light only, natural light with a reflector, and two images where I used a softbox (closer from the side, then further away from the back). I stuck to the same location. With hindsight I should have used some others, as I had limited variation from the natural light source which was daylight coming in from the window. Still, there is still quite a stark difference where artificial light is introduced, evening the lighting and reducing shadow on the subject’s face.

Natural light only. 85mm, 1/125 second, f/4, ISO 4500.
Natural light only. 85mm, 1/125 second, f/4, ISO 4500.
Natural light with reflector. 85mm, 1/60 second, f/4, Iso 2200.
Natural light with reflector. 85mm, 1/60 second, f/4, Iso 2200.
Softbox to side with natural light. 85mm, 1/125 second, f/4, ISO 2200.
Softbox to side with natural light. 85mm, 1/125 second, f/4, ISO 2200.
Natural light with softbox (directly behind and more distanced). 85mm, 1/90 second, f/4, ISO 2200.
Natural light with softbox (directly behind and more distanced). 85mm, 1/90 second, f/4, ISO 2200.

Rest in Peace David

I can’t believe the great man has gone. I discovered him through my older brother who had the Changesone compilation, and was probably only 10 or 11 at the time. I then went about getting the whole back catalogue, listening to him constantly through my teens, and wishing I was born twenty years earlier so I could have seen him as Ziggy. I’m gutted now I dropped out of following him, at least as intensely, for a few years – from the late 80s through to probably the mid-90s (when he put out Buddha of Suburbia, Outside, Earthling), but I’d found dance music by then and the psychedelic scene (including Gong, whose founder and lead singer Daevid Allen passed away last year, Hawkwind, Steve Hillage, Ozrics, Eat Static, The Orb, Orbital etc etc).

I did manage to see him ten times (Sound and Vision tour twice, Tin Machine, Heathen mini tour at the Royal Festival Hall, Move Festival in Manchester, Isle of Wight Festival, Ziggy 30th Anniversary show at Hammersmith, and three times on the Reality tour). Could kick myself now though about the shows that I missed out on.

Rest in Peace David.

Mural by Jimmy C, Morleys Department Store, Brixton (1)
Mural by Jimmy C, Morleys Department Store, Brixton (1)
Mural by Jimmy C, Morleys Department Store, Brixton (2)
Mural by Jimmy C, Morleys Department Store, Brixton (2)
On side of Jimmy C mural, Morleys Department Store, Brixton
On side of Jimmy C mural, Morleys Department Store, Brixton
40 Stansfield Road, Brixton (1)
40 Stansfield Road, Brixton (1)
40 Stansfield Road, Brixton (2)
40 Stansfield Road, Brixton (2)