Thursday, 1 September 2011
Silent Portraits - what I've learned
So all of the pictures from my silent portraits have been shared with the world and I thought it was worth saying a few words about the project as a whole...
Just to recap - the thoughts behind it all:
When shooting portraits I normally talk a lot, and I encourage others to talk too. This generally gets people to relax. However, sometimes I find the best way to get a good expression or feeling from someone is to stop that chat, and just wait. They start off not quite knowing what to do, they look shy, smile, laugh, pull an amazing awkward face, or give you the best silent look. So many interesting things occur when I stop talking.
This got me thinking: what if I didn't talk at all during a photoshoot. From the moment my subject enters the room to the moment they leave I wont say anything - I'll just stay quiet and see what happens.
So I put out a plea to the world for some volunteers to take part in an afternoon of photography. Seven people agreed to take part and gave me their time for free in return for an interesting experience.
What I've learnt:
Getting people to commit to an idea means that you will get better images from it. I warned all those involved what I was going to be doing with them and they were totally ready for it. If they had not been then I doubt I would have got images that look anyway near as intimate and interesting as those I took during my shoots.
Doing something different together makes people closer. It took maybe 5 minutes max to break down the awkwardness in each of the sessions. This is a way shorter time than when people can hide behind polite conversation. I also found that when we finished each session we left feeling like the best of friends, or at least a whole lot closer.
You can say so much without even talking. I could still direct and suggest ideas to the people involved the shoots. I could gesture, act, copy, smile, frown, move about and shake my head. There were so many other ways I could encourage and coerce people that didn't involved talking. It was really interesting to see how well they worked.
Keeping it simple can often mean the best images. I took one simple idea and expanded it to a whole shoot - I couldn't talk. I didn't have fancy lights, I didn't have a fancy set, I didn't have fancy props, I didn't use fancy processing. I just photographed in a small plain room with a chair and a table using the natural window light. This meant that there was nothing to distract me and my subject from one another. I think this shows in the intimacy of the images.
Here are all of the images for you to enjoy:
See the first person into the room here: Will
See the second person into the room here: Paul
See the third person into the room here: Keir
See the fourth person into the room here: Sophie
See the fifth person into the room here: Emily
See the sixth person into the room here: Olga
See the seventh person into the room here: Katy
A massive thanks to all those who took part in this project. It was totally fascinating to be part of.