Exercise 4: Same background, different model
This exercise is essentially the same as the previous one, but instead of taking photographs of the same person, here you must make portraits of three different subjects, but keep the background to the image consistent (see Irving Penn and Clare Strand, above). There are many ways of exploring this exercise. You could either select an interesting backdrop to use inside (studio) or perhaps select an interesting backdrop on location (street). Whichever you choose, try to be as creative as you can and be prepared to justify your decisions through your supporting notes. Again, present all three images together as a series and, in around 500 words, reflect upon how successful this exercise was in your learning log or blog.
I work near Liverpool street station in London and on the occasions I’m in the office I spend my lunchtimes in and around the station. I came across the idea for this exercise while people-watching from the first-floor balcony. Thousands of people cross the station concourse every day, and the flow is driven by the arrival of trains either under or over-ground. As I watched a surge in people traffic, a circle on the floor caught my attention, with a lady standing on it. I decided to photograph only people who walked on the circle directly. Despite the number of people walking back and fro, not that many actually walked on it but it gave me what I needed for this exercise, and I had some fun trying to mentally get people to walk on or in the circle!
In the end, I got I a good number of images, and when editing them experimented with both colour and black and white. Ultimately, I opted for colour using a film-simulated filter which helped give them visual consistency.
I wanted to isolate people in the circle and hopefully capture that moment when they looked towards me and that instant of recognition of being photographed. I only managed that once in the hour I spent photographing from the balcony, but it did force me to reflect on the physical distance between photographer and subject-it always exists-and in photography although the type of lens used accentuates or narrows this distance, the act of photographing changes everything whether we know the subject or not.
However, as I shot the images I realised that shooting in this type of environment is about looking and being ready to react to serendipitous events; distance and concealment help capture the moment so it’s uncontrived and candid.