Right from the beginning I was not entirely happy with either the approach that I found myself having to adopt to this assignment, nor indeed with the eventual outcome. However, I have nevertheless reworked the set considerably as described in an earlier post and I now feel much more comfortable with the eventual result.
Nevertheless, with the encouragement of my tutor I have gone back to the brief with a view to reshooting an entirely different subject. What I have been working on is a set of portrait shots of real people.
Over a number of occasions I have photographed subjects at markets in Hexham. In doing so I have returned to a project that I first started in early 2016, a documentary shoot of a day in the life of our local farmers’ market, of which portrait shots formed an important part. I therefore already had some experience of taking portraits. So far I have not produced enough new work that I am happy enough with to produce a useable final set. Obviously I cannot resume any of that earlier work now – frustrating though that might be as some of the early work is better, or at least I am happier with it, than what I have achieved more recently. If I am to produce an alternative I will need to do some more work and it remains to be seen whether I will be able to do so before the time comes to submit my entire body of work for assessment. If I cannot do so I will keep the reworked sculpture pictures as the final set. Nevertheless, whatever the outcome, the experience to date has been useful if nothing else to highlight the differences between photographing inanimate objects and people.
I have already identified the main constraints I faced when photographing the statues, principally poor light, inability to use a tripod, and lack of space. There are though some very different considerations that apply when photographing people.
The first issue that I have had to address has been consent. All of the subjects that I have shot to date have agreed to being photographed, though some more willingly than others! When I carried out my original market project I even obtained a formal written Release from the market manager. From a purely practical point of view it was not then nor is it now realistic to obtain individual releases from each subject. Nevertheless all of those shot then, and more recently, at least have given verbal consent. Fortunately, having attended these markets regularly over the last ten years or so I now know some of the stall-holders quite well so the approach to them to be subjects was quite easy.
Some people are of course quite uncomfortable about having their photograph taken, indeed I am far from keen myself! I have therefore had to work as discretely as possible. Mostly I have able to catch my subjects candidly without them posing – some have been very uncomfortable with the idea of posing though still happy to help out by taking part in the shoot. A few though have posed but I have been keen to keep proceedings as informal as possible.
I have also had to be careful to keep out of the way. This is a working market and it is important not to get in the way between the stall-holders and their customers. It has also been important to be sensitive to the views of those customers about being photographed themselves or caught up in a shot. Again consent has been the key.
From a technical point of view, taking these considerations into account, I have been using a Canon EF 85mm 1:1.8 lens that I like to use for such work as this. It has the advantage that you can step back a bit from the subject and not be right in their face. It also captures light really nicely even when, as over the course of a number of shoots, conditions can prove to be quite variable.
Because the market can be quite busy, and as space is at a premium, it is not practical to use a tripod and so, as with the sculptures, it has been necessary to keep shutter speeds no slower than 1/60s, and keeping the depth of field shallow. As I have tried to avoid posing it has indeed been necessary to keep shutter speeds as high as possible in the prevailing circumstances in order to capture subjects who are not necessarily standing still without movement blur. Because it can sometimes come across as a little confrontational or intrusive I do not use flash.
It now just remains to be seen whether I can put together an alternative set that I am sufficiently happy with to substitute for the sculpture set. If I can that will be the subject of a further post.
Since posting this it has become apparent that I am not going to be able to take advantage of the possible opportunities that I had in mind to shoot an alternative set for this assignment. I fear therefore that I am simply going to run out of time. As it is, with the holiday season approaching, I suspect I am going to be hard pressed to get everything ready for assessment in time. I am therefore going to go with the revised set of sculptural heads. At least I have had a go at a portrait set in the past (quite successfully!) and have had some experience of the issues involved so I do not feel that I am now short-changing myself.