Rankin talks about finding the ‘essence of a person’ or the ‘honesty’ in a portrait which fits in very well with out Truth Assignment. In our studio session this week we were given a piece of paper with an emotion written on it and asked to photograph one of our class mates portraying that emotion.
I was given the emotion ‘unnerved’ and asked to photograph Erin. Initially she hid behind the chair but after that I tried to pose her in a way that suggested that she had seen something (perhaps a spider on the wall) that had unnerved her. I wanted to see big eyes looking off camera and her mouth slightly open. Unnerved is quite a subtle emotion but I think we managed to capture it quite early on.
Then I remembered that Rankin uses hands, arms, hair and clothes as props in a lot of his portraits. So I asked Erin to put her hands to her face like the painting ‘The Scream’ but rather than looking unnerved I thought she looked more like she was laughing at something.
I asked her to put her hands on her head, open her eyes widely and take a sharp intake of breath. I took several shots like this, some more closely cropped but this is the one I like best. Through the fear that she is portraying, there is still a lively glint in Erin’s eye.
While I had Erin in front of the camera we talked about other things and I took the fifth image while she was looking at a friend. That is the image, with a shy smile, that shows the side of Erin’s character that I am most familiar with.
I was a little shy about doing the shoot with my classmates and tutor watching on but it really helped to keep talking with Erin while she was being photographed. It helped us try different poses and together work out the best shots. I hope too that it helped her to feel more relaxed and more confident too.
The environment of the college studio is probably more familiar to Erin than it is to me but if I was taking photos of someone who was unfamiliar with the lights and set up I would need to spend some time explaining what was happening in order to put them at their ease.
It is a good practice to have a clear idea of what you want to achieve before going into the studio and I took this image of Amanda Seyfried as Red Riding Hood as initial inspiration for an unnerved look.