Achieving a strong portrait means paying attention to a number of factors; subject, location, light, texture, background, props, focus, film type, depth of field, lens, camera and indeed many more.
For this project we are setting out to make a particular portrait whether that be of someone else of a self portrait the guidelines remain the same. Good art shows us something that either we haven't seen before or something that we think we know but in a different way, that is guideline we should all try to follow.
There are a few things I would very much recommend in setting about this task, first look at or least begin to look at the vast canon of portraiture that already exists, analyse it and try see what make it resonate. In fact if you find something that really speaks to you use it as inspiration. Most art has its beginnings in the art of the past, artists take something from another time and place and filter it through their own time and experiences thereby making something new. As the film maker Jean-Luc Godard once said "it's not where you take it from it's where you take it to."
Secondly photography is fundamentally a voyeuristic medium in that it allow us to see things we wouldn't normally see. So use this to show us something we don't normally see, remembering that what is deeply personnel is also universal.
What we want to see in a portrait is something that tells us a story, not the whole story but at least part of it. So a good portrait has a narrative to it or a suggestion of a narrative. The way the person is dressed, what they are doing, where they are, what the background is like, what the light is doing. In a way it's like a still from a movie, a segment of a bigger story that extends beyond the scene in front of you.
The story you decide to tell about your subject can be real, it can be totally fictional or somewhere in between.
Think very carefully about the light, light is the engine of photography, it drives the structure and the essence of an image. So think hard about the quality of the light, the time of the day, the angle, where it is, where it isn't.
Think about depth of field, what is in focus, what isn't, should the background be in focus or not?
Two last pieces of advice; one; what you leave out of an image is just as important as what you leave in. In other words looking at your shot from one side of the composition to the other and deciding what should be there and what doesn't need to be there, don't distract us with cluttered backgrounds unless a cluttered background is what is important to the story you are telling.
The last piece of advise at least here is this is an art school so push the boundaries don't be tame, take risks in your pictures. The worst response you can get from an audience is no response at all, the image is so unengaging that it doesn't compel us to look for more than a second. Making an image that arrests our attention in a powerful way, even if it challenges us is so much better.
When looking at these photographers, I found that I was drawn to photos with interesting subjects. Many photographers have taken portraits of circus performers as it is an unique culture that exists removed from conformativity.
Below you can see examples of portraits I like to capture, all of which captured during the time frame of this course.
There were a number of negatives that I thought suitable to print/develop further. I found the printing of a portrait to be more difficult than the landscape as with a subject dodging and burning of the print needed to be further precise. I would usually need at least 5 test strips per print, then one or two big prints to fine tune any dodging needing to be done.
When deciding on my portraits, my images that followed the common portrait constrains lacked the intimacy that all portraits are trying to express. When at the acrobatic convention that I attended, the photos I took of tricks in the process of completion had this intimacy I wished for. They captured moments unique to only someone within the culture are able to express. The left photo depicts a man JT mid way through a back sault of a competition where a circle of competitors flip before the previous person lands. The right photo depicts the dissembling of GOMers (Gravity and Other Myths) in four three-highs, where one group has completely dissembled.