Wednesday, 8 February 2012

'The Portrait Issue' Research Task



'Changing Pace, David Weir', Finlay MacKay


Aesthetically, this image of David Weir, photographed by Finlay MacKay is very vibrant in colour. There is a great sense of movement in the photograph which is created by many things: the left leaning tree; the shape of the winding road expanding in the foreground; the posture of Weir, leaning into the speed. This is an effective element of the photograph due to the fact that it is part of a commission for the 2012 Olympics. The theme fits in very well.

Judging by the shadow, the photograph was probably taken late afternoon. MacKay has used strobe lighting which casts strong light over his subject causing him to stand out. This method means the viewer can pick him out of the photograph as important which he rightly is. The tonal range is great, with the highlights on the subject down to the dark trunks and shadows beneath the trees in the background. The DOF is large as most of the image is sharp. I might have expected a shallower depth of field to pick out Weir from the image so the viewer can focus more of their attention on him.

The photograph has been taken from a regular eye level view, from a point not too far ahead of Weir so in a sense we see him approaching us - further adding to the sense of movement evident in the image already. MacKay favours 80mm and 50mm lenses. This particular photograph has most likely been taken with an 80mm lens.

MacKay's photographic technique is creative because he has stitched together multiple digital images to make this final photograph. Similarly, for his first commercial campaign which was in 2002, MacKay used multiple negatives to produce his final image.

'Actual Life', Toby Glanville

Glanville took his series 'Actual Life' over a period of 3 years (1997-2000). He has an eye for integrity; things unaffected by commercialisation which is very evident in this image of his from the series simply through it's aesthetics.

The concept of the image seems to be a portrayal of a 'real' woman, caught as she's doing what she does every day, therefore it is 'actual life'. Judging by her clothing and the environment and context of the photograph, it looks like this woman is a teacher.

Glanville's single subject stands almost completely in the middle of his frame, just as MacKay's subject is. She is looking straight into the camera which Glanville obviously has held to his face for us as a viewer to see this woman with equality. There are no feelings on either side of superiority or inferiority. The expression on her face is natural and friendly and her pose seems her own.

The lighting in the photograph looks very natural, coming in though the window on the right. We can see the shadow of the window and blinds projected into the board behind the woman which is joined by her shadow. This and the highlight on the side of her face prove a good tonal range although the shadows aren't extremely dark or the highlights extremely bright. The soft lighting seems to relate well to Glanville's subject and the idea she is portraying of herself through her pose and expression. The depth of field is also quite large, like MacKay's. Both images portray a lot of detail to the viewer.

A big difference between the two images of Glanville's and MacKay's which jumps out at me is that of the camera position and how although the movement in the first seems to guide the subject towards us, we have no real connection to him like we do in Glanville's where the woman is making eye contact. This may cause some people to feel a lot more like they can relate to her with this connection and I think any other pose wouldn't work as well or be as effective as this one. This leads me to believe that the visual approach Glanville has employed means the viewer can read into the image in their own way; based on agenda background and identity more so than MacKay's or Gebert's.

'Freischneider', Ulrich Gebert

This is a portrait of a hedge cutter in his uniform and protective clothing out of context from his 'garden' as such. The significance of this separation is that "physical confrontation between man and nature is hardly necessary anymore to validate the claim to power". However, it also causes some confusion because the man has been taken out of context.

The prime similarities between the three photographs are the use of a single subject and the use of colour.

The gaze of the subject is very different in each. We only have eye contact with Glanville's subject like a traditional portrait which makes the photograph have a more emotional outreach to the viewer. And Glanville is fond of the traditional. The gaze of MacKay's subject is very much concentrated on his task which is what we notice about the photograph - what he is doing and how. Lastly, the gaze of Gebert's subject is elsewhere like he has been snapped unaware. He has a very focussed expression on his face.

The framing of Gebert's image is not at all like MacKay's and Glanville's who do not take their subject out of context as Gebert has done. We wonder what the subject is looking at. The camera position is quite close to the subject, much closer than Glanville's and MacKay's who are appearing to have more similarities. The depth of field is large - just as in the previous two photographs and we can see all the detail in the face of the man and his clothing. The photograph has been taken using a flash which creates the bright highlights. There are some shadows however and the tonal range is about average.

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