My chosen subject for assignment 4 was to be myself and use self-portraiture along with artificial lighting techniques.
I came across many photographers whilst I explored the subject of self portrait. Cindy Sherman, for instance, used photography to explore self portraiture and the nature of perception in a viewers eyes. She played out and portrayed various characters through her work and often calls to attention the many ways in which women are objectified through the media. Her work in “untitled film stills” particularly drew me. The photos are dramatic, simple and interesting. She successfully transforms herself throughout her work in front of the camera and it’s a position of power that she is solely in charge of the vision both behind the scenes and in the final image, the work is a collaboration with herself.
Francesca Woodman is a photographer whose work, has previously caught my eye. She uses various elements in her work and is often the subject of her own photographs. She experiemtns a lot with shutter speeds and ambient lighting to explore herself through photography. Many of her images are somewhat uneasy and disturbing in a fascinating way. And unlike Cindy Sherman who mostly uses herself to portray a message. Francescas work seems to focus more on within.
Nan Goldin’s work was particularly self reflective, exploring the world as she knew it, around her. She sometimes turned the camera on herself, exposing a harsh reality, one which wasn’t filled with fantasy that can be intriguing, yet quite hard to look at. Her work draws me in and resonates with me. She documents her life, her surroundings and the people within it. Our lives look rather different, especially in a photograph, but there are similarities in the way I like to document my own life and surroundings compared with her.
I continued to look at the many and varying artists who used self-portraiture but I was aware that this assignment’s focus was of the light, I wanted to ensure I spent some time exploring photographers that used the light wisely. Rut Blees Luxemburg was one of these, I focused on her work in Liebeslied and figured that my work may have been particularly inspired by this, had I chosen to stick with my original topic of the Christmas Markets in Berlin. Her work is beautifully lit with the ambient artificial light of the street and often uses water (as I have previously done) to add an eery depth (and occasionally a reflection) to the scene.
Again, The work of Brassai in Paris By Night, has a similar beauty to the above, with the artificial street lights, highlighting aspects of Paris with a combination of elongated shadows and stunning reflections.
I also looked at Irving Penn’s work, he was very well known for his portraits and since my project was gearing towards this vein, I focused on that. He would often use a white or grey backdrop with his work and kept it simple, without props. This was something I wanted to achieve. His lighting technique varied between subjects, but was always lit in a studio, sometimes up close with a strong light and at other times, some distance away from the subject and more flattering. He would used an angled lighting technique sometimes, keeping part of the subjects face in the shadows. His subjects tended to look relaxed and had emotion present in their faces, which allowed their personalities to shine through.
Jean Baptiste Huynh’s portrait work is in a similar vein to that of Irving Penn, his set is simple and in a studio. His backdrop is usually dark grey or black and his subjects are usually well lit and often looking directly at the camera. Sometimes the subject is smiling, but often their expression is deadpan and it draws you to their eyes, which are always clear and well lit in his shots.
When I look at Annie Leibovitz’s portrait work, it is clear that she is someone who places strong emphasis on the importance of lighting. Her work is varied, sometimes using multiple props to detail the scene, whilst at other times, it is kept simple, black and white with strong contrasts and focusing on the facial details and expressions of her subjects, using the light to highlight these well.
It was here that I found my main muse for the lighting in this assignment. A simple dark background, strong, focused lighting and in black and white.
You can find my assignment 4 here
- Blees Luxemburg, R. (2001) Liebeslied: My Suicides, Black Dog Publishing Ltd.
- Leibovitz, A. (2017) Portraits 2005-2016, Phaidon Press.
- Goldin, N (2014) The Ballad of Sexual Dependency, Aperture (reprint edition).
- Woodman, F & Tellgren, A. (2015) Francesca Woodman: On Being An Angel. Walther Konig.
- Sherman, C. (2003) Cindy Sherman: The Complete Untitled Film Stills. The Museum of Modern Art, New York.
- Ray-Jones, T. (1970) Interview with Brassai. Available at: http://www.americansuburbx.com/2011/08/interview-brassai-with-tony-ray-jones.html
- Baptiste Huynh, J. Website: http://m.jeanbaptistehuynh.com
- The Irving Penn Foundation: https://irvingpenn.org