Assignment five: Photography is simple

This assignment asks me to capture a series of 10 images showing a subject multiple times, but each time the subject is shown in a different unique view. For this, I want to re-visit portraiture as this is the genre I am most interested in, but challenge myself with a niche not yet attempted. I hunted out a variety of willing models for a semi-nude glamour style photoshoot. The reason for this subject, is to push my emotional boundaries as a photographer. I am nervous, I want always to appear to know what I am doing in front of the model, but this is new for me. I need to get past any insecurities with giving direction for these photoshoots.

I feel this subject is something I can empathise with through the whole process. For instance, I had such a willingness from models to take part in this study, I suppose it shouldn’t be so surprising that women are eager to show off their ‘assets’ and feel worthy of a picture in their naked form. It’s a secret a lot of women have perhaps, but English culture keeps us prude and private. So, far atlas 2 of my models have mentioned their ‘imperfect’ bodies due to having children, this doesn’t bother me, but it obviously bothers them. I knew before hand that this would be mentioned, if not some other complaint of imperfection and insecurity. I imagine if I had asked a man to strip off for a photo, the answer would either be yes or no. But, for a women, well maybe we can be convinced, all we need is reassurance. It doesn’t mean women are naive, but more its a greater need for praise and confirmation. History has put women down for so many years as inadequate compared to men, only suitable for child bearing. Yet, a women body is built for that kind of undeniable strength. The curves and proportions, the way a women carry fat and muscle compared to a man is for more admirable in so many ways.

What is it all about?

I want to capture my models form from different angles, but always showing that unique form, the curves, the balance. I am considering shooting in black and white as I want the photos to be as raw as possible, no distraction for the intended meaning. The message I want to convey is ‘marvel’. Like how we are confounded at how the world produced birds, able to lift themselves above the clouds, not by magic, but by pure strength and build. A bird is built with a perturbing chest and tiny feet, so that it can float on air, support its weight and remain in flight. Women is built with wide hips, a strong spine to support reproduction. The curve in the waist is balanced by the then broadening of the shoulders to support the head. I want to show people how remarkable a female body is, like that of a bird or a starfish, built for purpose as sexist as it sounds, different to man, strengths over men in other ways.

This assignment to me, is all about showing the ‘new information’ that a woman presents. We are complex creatures of the world, so different to men, still over-coming so many barriers and fighting the fight for our rights and respect. Yet, despite all this the female form is such a device, a control over men, in many ways, more so than the male body over women. I remember reading in an interview with Paddy McGuinness about the show ‘Take Me Out’. He laughed about how when they had changed the show around for a special version if it, they made it so that 1 women would be showing in front of 30 men (usually the other way around). Unlike the original version where the women would be very choosey and reject the man based on tiny flaws, the men would keep their light on for the women 95% of the time. The joke being that if she was female and had a pulse, they wanted her. This is a great representation of the power women hold over men, although purely sexual, it is still a power. Men have held power for so long…why? Personally, I think a combination of fear, physical domination and manipulation from the higher power collaborative of men, and now we are realizing this irony. And today we see a huge percent of the female population hold the more prestigious careers, compete in sporting events, display great physical strength and other tremendous accomplishments.

Inspiration: Damien Lovegrove

I found Damien Lovegrove when browsing for inspiration on Google, under the search ‘boudoir photography’. I was attracted to his work due to the old fashion, artistic style of photography and the variety of natural poses from the subjects. That was one thing I was aware I didn’t want to show in this assignment; a replication of modern boudoir photography, with lots of props and underwear and glamour. I wanted it to be more of an artistic study, and I feel Lovegrove’s work shows what I want to try and convey.

I love the use of the studio lighting to highlight and flatter the bodies and cast shadows to create definition. I like the subtle use of textured backgrounds, not as harsh as block coloured walls like white or grey, and it also gives the images more of a vintage feel, not as modern and corporate like stock images on a studio backdrop.

Inspiration: Milosz Wozaczynski

Milosz Wozaczynski is a fine-art, nude and portrait photographer, born in 1975 in Szczecin, currently living in United Kingdom. A self-taught photographer who mainly engages in portraits and creative photography. A laureate of this year’s Hasselblad Masters competition for the series of artistic wedding portraits. His works are being shown at several exhibitions across the world.

The quality of the images produced by Wozaczynski are inspirational, crisp, natural and eye-catching. From being fortunate enough to use Hasselblad when working in the Astbury Studio from 2009-2012, I can appreciate the immense quality produced by such a wonderful piece of equipment. I feel envious at Wozaczynski and frustrated at my ignorance looking back now at such as mis-used opportunity.

Wozaczynski’s compositions might be a little bit too ‘posed’ for my own work, and maybe drifting away from my intended message. However, I love the way he uses blur to focus in on certain areas of interest in his portraits, it also gives the focal point a really crisp feel, and high quality impression.

Shoot One: Sherkeila

For my first shoot my model provided a quirky subject in which to first experiment with angles and props. I was nervous at first as I had never photographed a topless model before. I didn’t want to appear immature; not knowing how to direct the shoot, but luckily I found my confidence quickly and led the shoot. I kept up the inspirational shots as shown in my early notes, as a mood board to guide me with some compositions. I worked with a lot of inspiration from Damien Lovegrove and his natural but obscure angles, as well as inspiration from Stephen D. Colhoun and the relative blog post I completed in admiration of him. (Click here to read the post)

Overall I am really pleased with the variety of angles and small detail, my worry is the underwear being too distracting. I wasn’t initially confident about the amount of tattoos and piercings as I thought it would be to distracting from the original focus. Now on reflection, I think it shows confidence, arrogance, a disregard for traditional expectations for women, it shows a modern women.

Shoot Two: Natalie

I was able to briefly review my first photoshoot and improve on some of the shots with this second shoot. I selected a wider variety of obscure angles to view the model such as from behind the feet, with her lying down, her hands etc. The back views were inspired by Horst, although I don’t feel I achieved the look exactly as I’d wanted.

I had confidence initially in this model as I was aware she had been working on her physique post child-birth. I thought the emphasis of good lighting on her muscles would make for interesting images. However, I actually struggled to light her physique in a flattering light. Maybe its because her body showed a mixture of masculine muscle, feminine stretch marks from mother hood, and still her natural girls from a still young women. She was complex to capture.

On reflection, I see the complexity of her body reflects her character. There is more to this model than just being a women, or just being a mother. She has strength, she builds her strength and she is happy to show her strength.

Shoot Three: Steph

My third model and photoshoot with Steph was possibly destined to be my favourite. I reflected on the first two photoshoots and selected poses that had worked as well as ensuring I didn’t get caught up in the moment and miss any ideas I had from the beginning. Steph had a wonderfully curvy and womanly body, the studio lighting complimented the curves of her breasts and hips in the way I have wanted based on my inspiration from both Lovegrove and Wozaczynski. I didn’t have to give her much direction with her expressions and my opinion may be singular, but I felt she had the most photogenic face of the three models.

From the practice in exercise 5.2 I thought carefully about the elements of Lovegrove and Wozaczynski’s work that I wanted to incorporate in these shoots. I was inspired by the by the information surrounding the image in its presentation. Although it is apparent what information is within Lovegrove’s images and what information he wishes to present through them, as he is first and foremost advertising them as Glamour photographs, his services as a Glamour photographer are to beautify a women through photography for her own reasons. However, the images from Lovegrove I have used as inspiration present other information surrounding them that I concluded without the back-story of his services. The style and composure for many of them, also fit with the theme and narrative I was researching initially, which means someone else also interpreted them in the same way I did.

Wozaczynski’s images were influences for my shoots, based on the way the images were made. As I mentioned when I introduced Wozaczynski to my project, his use of Hasselblad to create such crisp, high quality work with harsh but strong lighting was the kind of images I wanted to create. Wozaczynski and Lovegrove were the balanced combination of influences for all aspects of the images created.

I am torn between the three shoots as they all possess relevant qualities, linking with my theme and brief. Steph’s images were the most fitting with what I originally pictured as the outcome of this assignment, but then I was surprised by the new information I found when looking over the first and second shoots a few more times.