Representation Through Portraiture- Influences

I was influenced by this photograph of David Beckham for my idea of taking photographs of my subject at night. This photograph shows Beckham in a natural and normal way while he is sleeping, because he is not awake he is not posing or acting different for the camera. Furthermore because Beckham is a very famous person and well know, people can relate to him more in the photograph as it shows him as a normal natural person, like everyone else he sleeps.

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This photograph of Beckham then lead me on to looking at the work of Tim Hetherington, and his book Infidel; the book is an intimate portrait of a close group of US soldiers, posted in the Korengal Valley where it is considered one of the most dangerous Afghan postings in the war against the Taliban. Hetherington documents the men, who model themselves on the ancient Spartans, over a course of a year. His photographs prove surprisingly tender especially one set of strong photographs which is a series of the men asleep. These photographs of the men asleep stood out to me and made me think about my own work on portraiture. 

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The photographs of Hetherington’s are very striking, showing a more vulnerable and normal side to these soldiers, it makes the viewer realise the impact war is having on people’s lives as these are just normal men, who are vulnerable and do need sleep. By taking the photographs at night when the soldiers are asleep, Hetherington shows them in a very natural and peaceful sate, contrasting to their daily work. Furthermore because the soldiers are asleep they are unaware of the camera and so cannot ‘act’ differently or change the way they present themselves, they have no control over what they look like, making a more natural photograph.

nevalla korengal valley kunar province afghanistan 2008 c tim hetherington courtesy yossi milo gallery new york

In my own work I want to look at the idea of how people act differently in front of the camera, and so plan to do a natural photograph of someone sleeping and also a photograph in a studio where the subject is aware of the camera. I believe that when they are in front of the camera they will act different to how they are naturally, whereas in the photograph at night it will show them completely natural as they are asleep and can’t help how they act.

I looked at Yuri Yasuda’s work as he is known for his portraiture work, especially in studios. I took influence from his work as he often takes photographs in the studio of different subjects, and I am planning to take two of my photographs in the studio. I want to focus on how people act in front of the camera when they are aware of it; I will demonstrate how my subject chooses to present themselves, giving the viewer a clue to their personality.

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These two photographs are very simple, with a plain background, making the people the main focus of the photographs. Each person has presented themselves to the camera in their own way, they are aware of the camera and so pose and act differently. The photographs also show the personality of the two people, by the way they dressed and are acting. In my own photographs I want to let my subject present themselves in their own way, I will let them wear what they want, and act how they like in front of the camera. I hope this will give the viewer a clue into how they act in front of the camera and also a bit of their personality. I will also then be able to compare my natural shot of them and the studio one, opening up the debate ‘which is the real representation of the subject?’

This work of Yasuda contrasts to the work of Steve Tynan, who challenges this idea of how someone reacts to the camera; Tynan photographs himself in revealing and slightly shocking photographs where he seems comfortable with the presence of the camera. He presents himself to the viewer in little or no clothing, showing his comfort with the camera and his body, even though he is not young and with the best body he still doesn’t shy away from the camera. In his photographs he often takes himself outside to different locations, without much clothing, yet he still seems comfortable with the camera even though anyone could see him. His poses and manner in front of the camera are very relaxed and he could almost be seen as looking like he would if he was just sitting in his own home and not outside.

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To me, I think that different people act in different way in front of a camera, and each reaction is different. People who are more self-conscious would shy away whereas confident people would feel confident and comfortable with their body. However with these photographs I debate whether it is because Tynan works with a camera as his profession and so is used to it, he is more comfortable? Or is he just comfortable with his body and himself?

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