Some further reflections on this assignment having received feedback from my tutor.
First, I forgot to include a contact sheet of the various images that I took and from which the final choices were made. Doh!
There are not that many images on this sheet because this was all that I could usefully take at the time. Camera angles were so restricted that for most there was only one available viewpoint and any adjustments were just to try to get framing and background right. The first frame was rejected because of the presence of the picture frame in the background and because i thought the second was a more dramatic angel, even though the lighting was not as arresting. I was though able to adjust this when converting to black and white. the third frame was rejected because there was too much background and on this occasion I could crop in camera.
The fifth and sixth was the only subject I rejected outright because his costume did not fit with the classical theme of all of the other subjects. Frame eight was chosen over seven because I felt the profile view was stronger.
Twelve to fifteen I struggled with and could not get right and chose the final frame in preference because of the more striking low camera angle (which was not easy to achieve in the circumstances!) For some reason this was the only frame that I included in the contact sheet after it had been processed – not now sure why – but it does serve to highlight the difference in quality compared with the previous four. I evidently also failed to mention that these shots were taken elsewhere, not at Bowes. I wanted to include this particular head to introduce a little more variety among the female heads and felt this would fit. There were though similar restrictions on accessibility, hence the struggle to get it right.
I had originally wanted an equal number of male and female subjects but the decision to exclude the fellow in the brocaded collar upset that balance. I nevertheless stand by that decision, even though upsetting the balance, because I remain of the view his ornate uniform would have upset the otherwise classical theme.
Images two and three of the final set
These two are admittedly very similar. Indeed, at one point I did wonder if I had taken two different views of the same subject. The hairstyles are though different so they are not the same. Unfortunately it was not possible to shoot either of these two from different angles, which is why only the two frames appear in the contact sheet. It was physically difficult to approach them from a different angle and to the extent that I could I could see in camera that the light then became a problem and the indicated shutter speed became far too low for a successful handheld shot so I did not even attempt it. In retrospect what I should perhaps have done, which would also have addressed the gender imbalance was to reject one of them, in which case I would let go of the third image in the final set (frame ten in the contact sheet).
Lee Friedlander image
Could I have included a suggestion of a human presence/shadow in the image? Practically speaking no just because of the way the natural light fell. Would I want to anyway? Do I feel it would have added anything? Again I think no, although it is a valid and interesting question. I think that what gives the Friedlander such impact is that the photographer’s shadow head falls upon and within the subject’s head. It was that coincidence that attracted me to that example in the first place and is something that I would have wanted to achieve. As the final approach that I adopted was in a more traditional portrait mode I am not sure that the effect would have been as successful.
Having suggested that further cropping might enhance the set or at least give it a different feel why did I not try it? Good question! Let’s have a go now (also leaving out image three to see how the set looks with more equal balance). At the same time I want to have anther look at the rejected male head; if cropped in tight his collar should disappear. or at least be less obvious. I also want to try replacing his head for the young man’s head (frame nine on the contact sheet) which is not sufficiently different from the following two female heads:
On reflection I feel this set is a little more balanced having removed that one image. Cropping could be played around with ad infinitum but I think this closer crop for all of them adds some further impact by focusing attention even more tightly on just a part of the subject’s head. Still not sure about the Second Empire collar but it does fit better than I thought it might. Indeed, it now suggests to me that the set is in some ways more coherent and that it is now the second female head that does not fit so well!
Postscript – preparing prints for assessment
The final set of these images as printed for Assessment are slightly different from how they appear above. In the process of preparing the files for printing it became apparent that the above pictures had been through so many manipulations that the resolution had been reduced to such a level that they would not print well. The set for printing have therefore been created again from scratch from the original RAW files. They have also been recropped into a square format. Having experimented with different formats for the so far unfinished series of market trader portraits it seems to me that a square crop suits this sort of image quite well. Recropping has also got round a problem presented by the fact that each of the images above was cropped individually to ‘suit’ so that there is no real consistency across the set. Going square also helps to find a more appropriate paper size, which in this case is going to be 8×8 inches.
Here is the set revised for printing: