For this exercise, I decided to take advantage of an assignment that I had to make to create a photo catalogue for a Sunday school. I admit that the subject matter is neither exciting nor very interesting, but it is an opportunity to explore the different postures that subjects adopt before the camera.
The session was scheduled two weeks in advance and it was planned as a quick portrait session, in which I simply marked the subject’s position, leaving him/her free to decide the pose and facial expression he wanted to adopt.
My first decision was to exclusively use daylight to take the photographs. In other similar projects, I always used artificial light to achieve uniform illumination on people’s faces. I placed the subjects on the edge of a vaulted area so that the daylight lit laterally on the subject, lighting one side of the face more intensely. In this way, the facial features of the subject are shown more marked and the portrait is much more interesting. In almost all the portraits the subject took a frontal pose with his arms down, but some of them deliberately chose a lateral pose that gives a little more dynamism to the pose: Sandra # 2, Mily and Irene. In the case of Irene, the turned position conceals a small birthmark on her face, so it is interesting.
It is inevitable that people smile when they face the camera, although they often do it to different degrees. I think the most authentic expression of people is achieved when the subject does not smile, because in a certain way the smile deforms the structure of the face. However, the smile allows to establish a relationship of trust between the subject and the viewer, removing any suspicion or instinctive caution. On the contrary, a face without expression puts us on alert, since we cannot guess any kind of intention in the subject, which creates a barrier of ambiguity. The subject adopts a position in which tries to show a friendly and open appearance, and the smile in its different degrees is the strategy; This gradation goes from the frank and open smile, to a contained grimace in which the beginning of a smile is seen.
The background is a concrete wall, and the intention was to have a neutral background in the style of the well-known portrait photographs as Nadar or Irving Penn, where I can draw the portrait of the subject. Basically, the background fulfils this function, although the horizontal line that appears introduces on the composition an element of meaning in the series, since it allows the viewer to establish a comparison of stature between the different subjects.
Again my choice to process the photos is black and white, which allows me to concentrate on expression and pose, away from the distractions of colour. I have observed that when I present to the subjects several photos of him, some processed in colour and some others in black and white, they tend to choose the latter, perhaps because colour photography reminds them of everyday life, and a black and white photo offers a new vision of themselves.