Alan Johnson

For my second character portrait sitting I invited Alan Johnson to take a break from the political campaign trail and to come into the college for a coffee. Alan is currently campaigning on behalf of The Labour Party to return to Parliament as the MP for Hull West and Hessle.

I was not sure how I wanted these photographs to look, so I trawled the internet looking at other photographs of politicians and found a few that I liked of Winston Churchill but nothing really struck me. I then read a few biographies and interviews to see if that would give me a clue. When I read that Alan Johnson had once been in a band and loved to play the guitar I thought that using a guitar as a prop would be a good way to make him feel relaxed and give him something to do while I photographed his facial expressions.

I initially used two backlight reflectors with coloured gels on a white to give a colourful bright background and one lamp with a beauty dish in order to light my subject. I wanted it to look as though he was in the spotlight on a stage.

I asked him to sit on a stool with the guitar while we chatted and I took a few shots. These photos were ok, in hindsight I think I could have used a reflector to lighten the right side of his face but I quite like the shadowy contrast.

I then tried a few shots without the the coloured gels on the background. I preferred this for some close ups and managed to capture a few different facial expressions.

Finally I used a faintly patterned background that is a little like wallpaper. Alan came across as a gentle man who was very interested in us personally and I felt that this background was a little bit softer. We also took the guitar away and replaced it with a mug of coffee. I particularly like the look of concern in the last photograph in this series as he was talking to my colleague Anete about something.


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