people vs walls

There's nothing I love more, photographically speaking, than a good portrait. When I talk to someone in the same spot for long enough I will invariably consider how they might look on film in that moment. Sometimes the answer is like shit, but sometimes if I have my camera on me I decide that a shot is definitely warranted. When James and a few others were in conversation over dinner in early 2009 I noticed how lovely the seat backing was, and snapped with the hope of capturing that and his beautiful smile. When photographing people - particularly when you're only prepared to chance one shot on them - it is hit and miss as to whether the result will be any good. I think this one was a hit.

This is not necessarily a miss, but I do regret the (lack of) focus and the break in the wallpaper to the left. What is visible of the wallpaper looks great, though, and I think it's a lovely shot of Madeleine. The fact that it was taken on her seventeenth birthday makes it even more momentous.

I suppose the notion of a busy background in a portrait seems like it might detract from the subject, which I have no doubt is a common occurrence. Perhaps the reason I don't find that in these shots is because they are black and white, so the backgrounds are only as busy as their patterns, rather than colours. (The graffiti shot of Laird is another great people vs wall shot - in this case the background actually complements the portrait as it's one of Laird's favourite, and most frequented, alleys in Melbourne.)

I have only made one attempt at these shots in colour, and I love it - but I don't think it's necessarily successful as a portrait. The combination of the surreal colour and the black-as-night sunglasses dehumanises it, so while the image is aesthetically pleasing, it doesn't reveal much about the subject.

I was immediately disappointed with taka's eyes being closed when I got this back, following my logic that eyes are a crucial element of a good portrait. Then I looked at it a bit more, and within a few hours I was in love with this image. The photo collage makes for a fabulously unusual background, and the bright flash around his head combined with the vignetting around the trim gives the shot a great sense of depth. It's hard to put my finger on the reason I grew to appreciate the closed eyes - perhaps because it doesn't necessarily look like it's a blink (though it was), so there are an infinite number of conclusions that can be drawn. Is he deep in thought? Is he rejecting the photographer's request to take his picture? Is he upset? Or resting? Or listening to something? What? It seems that closed eyes can prompt as many questions as open eyes.

Analysis aside, another reason this is a treasured image is because it captures a common weekend occurrence: 2am, Brunswick Street, pizza slices. Taka is drunk and sleepy, and he happens to be standing in front of a great looking wall. And maybe it's as simple as that.

1 comment:

  1. that last one of taka is beautiful- i love it too!