Exercise: Review a portrait sequence

For this activity, I chose to incorporate Richard Avedon’s method of eliciting expression from the subject. I had my subject sat down on a neutral background using available natural light. I prefocused and adjusted the settings and loaded my SLR camera with a roll of film. I had the camera mounted on a tripod and I used a cable release or just stood above the camera staring at the subject with one hand on the shutter button. My objective was to shoot the roll of film in under an hour without talking to or communicating with the subject. The process became a study in the nuances of expression and it was interesting to see how my subject’s expression fluctuated over the course of an hour. Afterwards my subject had said how she had got lost in her own train of thought, forgetting sometimes that she was sitting in front of a camera. It was a very strange experience for me also, the usual concerns over composition, settings, and focus were totally absent and I was left to focus totally on my subject’s expression. Whilst I was not speaking to the subject, I felt that my own gaze and the camera certainly influenced the subject’s expression, and the lack of verbal and visual communication from the photographer allowed her to concentrate on her own thoughts.

Reviewing the sequence, I found some shots that revealed quite serious expressions, and others showed more light hearted moments. The range of expressions was very interesting especially since I had not communicated with the subject at all over the course of the sequence. As per the brief, I have rated the photos from ‘not good’ to ‘best single shot’ – the first shot below being ‘not good’, the last shot being what I consider the best.

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Exercise: Review a portrait sequence

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