We decided to cover John in Hundreds and Thousands. I got them to stick by covering him in Golden Syrup first. For this session I had decided that the blood and mud shoot with Phil was good because the subject matter is more purely about me covered in weird stuff, as opposed to being people covered in weird stuff in documentary or fashion shoots. I wanted to photograph John in his sitting room by his bookcase with pictures on the wall but I wanted the depth of field to be quite shallow so those elements weren’t crowding the picture out.
On reflection this session was a bit of a struggle. Portrait photography is hard. Setting up a composition with the right degree of simplicity is hard. When I looked back at the pictures I noticed that there was one good shot of John looking straight on at me that I like. I wish I had that shot while he was covered in hundreds and thousands. That would probably have been my favourite.
There are shots I like from this collection though. They’re mainly the more close up ones of John from the side on looking into the distance. I’m interested by the difference between the one of him closig his eyes and him looking into the distance. They’re almost the same shot apart from that but him closing his eyes changes the emphasis quite a lot. I like that.
Both Libby and Mary have said they’ve thought that the pictures where people are closing their eyes are better. The ones with eyes open are immediately about different things. In the mud one I’m suddenly the swamp thing, whereas the one where my eyes are closed looks much more serene. It’s much more like I’m in my own cloud of reflection. That’s important. These photographs are at least in part about something that’s happening inside of someone. That demands a careful balance with these pictures. I’m learning a lot from doing them. There are many more decisions to be made than I might have thought. In a way I’m trying to learn how to do portrait photography full stop.
I feel like one of the ways I’ve failed in these photographs is that they should be portraits. So far I’ve been doing them as people covered in different weird things. The photographs need to come out of my relationship with these people. They’re all my frieds after all. These pictures are both more simple and complicated than I had initially thought.
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