Portrait Shooter

The Portrait Shooter’s Dilemma

To me, a portrait is an intensely personal interaction between the artist (photographer, painter, sculptor or whatever medium) and the subject. One perceives, the other reveals. It is not a chick pic, or an attempt to beautify, to show someone in the best light, nor is it the use of a model by a photographer to make a conceptual image. Neither is it a picture of a sheep, nor of a person so distant in the image as to be unrecognisable, as recent professional awards competitions would have us believe.

I like grit. One of the things that attracted me to photography in the first place was sports: the athlete at peak performance will often reveal their naked personality.

Avedon famously wanted his subjects to feel uncomfortable: Leibovitz also does not feel the need to make her subjects feel at ease. I won’t go that far: but at some point in a portrait session, the subject should drop the mask. Or at least one of the many masks that we humans wear to disguise our true selves from the cruel world.

Over the last many years I have photographed all kinds of subjects: but if you were to ask me what I most like to photograph, it would be portraits. There is nothing I would like more than to spend an hour with someone and gradually peel some layers off the onion, to reveal something underneath, as in Ibsen’s Peer Gynt. Though hopefully we will not reach the point where we find there is nothing at the core, that we are all layers, a series of masks upon masks, with nothing substantial underneath the final mask.

Of course there are limits. The subject must be complicit in the outcome, or it will never see the light of day. So we will let them shuffle their masks, hoping for an interesting one that they are prepared to show to the world.

That is my dream. Like all dreams, reality intervenes each morning, and we go back to shooting pizza and making it look good.

I like this image. I could do photoshop on it. I could do frequency separation. I could send it off to a retoucher to change it into something that  never was and never will be.

But I won’t.

Shot on Film Retrospective

Shooting with the Hasselblad 500CM

I’ve had this 40 year old film camera for a while now, and put quite a few rolls of film through it. I thought I’d take the time to go back and look at some shots from each of the shoots, or indeed, rolls, as I would only shoot one roll at at time due to expense.

First a few words about the camera. It is a medium format camera taking rolls of 120 film, giving 12 shots on a roll. The images are square, so there is no portrait/landscape distinction. The standard lens is 80mm focal length and f2.8 – the shutter is actually in the lens, and offers speeds up to 1/500sec. There are no electronics, no battery, no autofocus, no autoexposure, no auto anything. The camera is a 100% mechanical instrument requiring all settings to be manually configured by the photographer.

Film is readily available for the camera, my usual is Kodak Portra 400, which has ISO or speed of 400, and reasonably fine grain. Colours are designed to favour skin tones. I have the film processed and scanned to digital files by Atkins on Fullarton Road here in Adelaide.


More shots on film

Another outing for the Hasselblad 500CM

I had the opportunity to shoot again with Sophia, again using the 40 year old Hasselblad 500CM loaded with a roll of 12 shots of Kodak Portra 400 film. That’s right, 12 shots only, fully manual, no auto anything. I also took along my Nikon F5 film camera loaded with Kodak Ektar 100, 36 shots this time, and just to be sure, the Sony.  It turns out that the Nikon flares badly when pointed anywhere near the sun, and the autofocus took a little time to get the hang of,  so only 21 shots worked out of 36. I’m not sure that I will use the Nikon again. And the Hasselblad with its manual focus really begs to be on a tripod.

The wall art in frames 6-9 is a painting of drowned Ophelia by renowned artist James Cochran aka Jimmy C. His art can be found across the world, in Australian, European (and the UK)  and South American cities. He is particularly well known for his painting of Bowie in Brixton, London.  Ophelia is a character in Shakespeare’s play Hamlet, and has been painted by many great artists over the years. Best known and also showing Ophelia floating in a stream is by John Millais. Famously Millais used a model in a bath of water – she became severely chilled from hours in the cold bath and subsequently became very ill.

Product Rotation for Artworks

Rotating product displays are useful for all kinds of products, but especially so for artworks such as bronze figurines, porcelain, any object where it is important to view from all sides. Product rotations are interactive, so that the viewer can rotate the object with their mouse and view any aspect at their leisure. The viewer can also zoom to a larger view to inspect detail.

This example is a French figurine in spelter, signed Fayral at the base. It is quite small at 25cm tall including the plinth. This particular item has no provenance, and many copies, both legitimate and unauthorised, were made of bronzes in the Art Deco period.

We photographed this artwork in our studio at Boffa Lane in Hyde Park, using our computer controlled turntable to make 72 images at precise intervals. Software from Magic360 on our website allows this interactive display to be shown. If this kind of product display interests you please contact us on 0413637775.

Adelaide Architectural Icons

As part of a personal project I ventured out to photograph two notable examples of modern architecture in Adelaide: the Convention Centre, and the Medical Research Institute. In between we happened on the Jeffrey Smart Building at Uni SA, so made a shot there. All three images were made on the venerable Nikon D3 camera, now over 10 years old, and only 12 megapixels. The lens was the Nikon PC-E 24mm tilt shift lens, hand held at full shift, shot at f11.

Shooting Film at Bone Gully

We went to Bone Gully in Kuitpo Forest south of Adelaide recently, specifically to shoot on Hasselblads: the relatively old H4D40 digital camera and the much older 500CM film camera, loaded with Kodak Portra 400. Twelve shots on the roll, one roll only. Focussing this camera is quite difficult, it has no autofocus, no auto exposure, no auto anything. No electronics, no battery. When I got the film back I found that 6 shots were a little out of focus, the other six were good. I did not shoot tight enough, so the resultant scanned images have been cropped in Lightroom, no other changes made.

Springtime Part Two

More images from the recent shoot with Sophia Anna

We spent some time getting these images, using a battery powered strobe to provide some lift in the lighting. Finding a flat spot for the light stand was half the battle.