All the models featured have been or are currently homeless
Create a series of between six and photographs on one of the following subjects:
For this series I wanted to develop my skills as a portrait artist. I’ve always been drawn to exploring people’s interior through the capturing of their exterior. I believe with the right setting, encouragement and technique, a photograph can almost capture the most secret of our thoughts and feelings, the true self without the difficult of actually becoming vulnerable.
My theme of using models from a homeless background came from two main inspirations, first, my tutor had suggested the idea of working with the charity Coffee4Craig after our discussion during a previous assignment in which I had tried to capture some of the poverty issues within the square mile area I had covered in assignment 1. Second, I had been researching the documentation of the homeless issues and discovered that the vast majority of images of people living in supported accommodation or rough sleeping were generally Black nd white images and edited to highlight the issue of the individual.
I found these images to not only be dehumanising for the subject but also, due to the lack of colour, quite detached from modern life.
I chose to use quite a conventional lighting and shooting approach to capture my subjects. Using techniques from corporate and commercial photography to draw attention to the image and challenge the initial perception of the theme.
My images all carry a striking and colourful background typical of model and product photograph in the current media which the the models themselves have all been lit in a setup akin to corporate portrait settings. I feel this gives the viewer the impression that the image is of a paid model who is promoting a product or service, or possibly even themselves.
I have included samples of modern marketing photography as examples of my inspiration for the post processing of the images
The challenge for me was balancing the agenda with the technique, I wanted to convey the inner self of each subject whilst avoiding using the typical techniques of photographing homeless people such as extreme high key lighting and heavy clarity and sharpening in post processing. I also wanted to avoid the use of the black and white due to the connotations that brings, such as it being an image from the past, as I feel that lends a certain preconception to the viewer which would not work with the challenge of juxtaposing the theme with the content.
David lives in a B&B, he’s been visiting Coffee4Craig for several months now, but the exact time escapes his memory. In talking with the clients at the centre about the purpose of the shoot, he expressed his interest in having a photo to give to his ‘girlfriend’ the new bus driver on his route.
Rose ran her own business until 6 months ago and is a French immigrant, she has been rough sleeping for several months and visit the drop in centre for support, food and social interaction. She is especially happy when people speak to her in French and Pain Au Chocolat is on the menu.
George is an aspiring musician and has been rough sleeping for nearly a year. He had family issues which couldn’t be resolved which lead to his decision to leave home. He was initially scared of having his portrait captured but now speaks of how he will always chose me as his photographer once he breaks through into the music scene.
Peter has been using the centre since the beginning of 2019. He brings a lot of joy to many people in the centre with his charismatic smile and tales of adventures past. He currently lives in a shack, a man of the out doors and adventure even now.
Luke is currently in supported living after losing his job as a chef several months ago. The centre helps him make ends meet whilst on benefits, He has been using the charities in Manchester to support his budget whilst also Using the educational And training on offer to qualify at Level 3 Culinary and Food safety. He recently got news of a job interview returning to chef work.
Authur has been one of the most loved patrons at the drop in centre. Having spent many years working through the support systems has finally found a council house and moved in. Arthur has been a rough sleeper, lived in shared accommodation and recently moved out of support living. The first thing he asked when being told he had a home was if he could return to the centre to volunteer to support the younger patrons.
All images were shot with my Sony A7MK2 full frame camera with The Sony 85mm f1.8 lens. I chose this lens mainly due to its useful and traditional focal length meaning I could create some space between the model and the camera helping to reduce any potential anxiety. I also wanted to make use of the wide aperture due to having a low end lighting kit which restricts the amount of light I can generate. Due to the lack of powerful lights I was limited to shooting at 1/100s as I didn’t want to boost the iso too much. Unfortunately whilst the sony is a splendid camera for high iso images, the noise that creeps in start being too intrusive for portraits especially on fine detail which I wanted to preserve as much as possible.
For editing, I use an iPad Pro 12.9” with Apple Pencil and Affinty Photo software. This combination has vastly improved my editing efficiency and skills due to the accessibility of the software whilst the pencil gives me real time interaction and excellent accuracy when selecting or treating certain parts of an image.
The whole series was shot against a green screen enabling me to invest time in finding the right background effect without having to keep the models invested and engaged for long sessions. Using a select tool to quickly map out the green screen I moved on to using a refinement tool to separate the finer edges and details such as hair. After completing the select I create a gradient fill layer to mask the green screen. As seen in the thumbnails I used the gradient tool to test several combinations of colours, transitions, saturations and hue until I found the final selections. For portraits I always try to keep editing to a minimum as my aim is to capture the ‘real’ person and not to hide or cover their individuality. All images received a pass of up sharp mask to tighten up the detail, mild colour correction with white balance, highlight reduction, shadow lift and finally contrast and black level correction to try and equalise the look across all models. The only correction which manipulated the image in a way which alter the representation was to isolate the hue and tint caused by the green screen and shift that to match the back ground whilst also lifting the luminance of the green to help blend the edges of the models more naturally into the frame. Once all other adjustment were completed I burnt some edges of the models to further blend the background, In also burnt some of the shadows over Tehran’s eyes of the models to ensure they didn’t have too much of an imbalance of lighting across the face which can be jarring to view and not the effect I looked for.
This series was originally planned as a collection of items important to the models shot in a style which reflected the display techniques combined with the photography style akin to evidence collecting within crime investigation. Unfortunately, working with the clients of the drop in centre it became clear objects didn’t hold the same importance one may expect causing the success of the concept to depend heavily upon continuous amounts of time which at this time doesn’t fit with the course schedule.
Looking back over my original images I notice quite a lot of inconsistency between the lighting and exposure levels. A lot of this was due to not being able to shoot every image in one sitting but over several dozens across 3 months. Comparing the first images to the later, I do feel that my consistency improved and with further practise I am sure I could effectively shoot two images in different locations with minimal noticeable difference.
Further, I noticed how drastic minor changes in posing can be when comparing side by side, admittedly working the subjects such as those featured, posing does not come naturally and consistency is hard to maintain when trying to minimise time and stress involved.
I do feel I was able to get consistent framing and focus due to anticipating issues and leaving border space to crop appropriately. Focus came a lot from learning more about using eye and face AF points on my camera.
Technical issues aside, I do feel I most achieved what I set out to capture, the natural interaction between myself and the models. The use of bright colours, lighting and 1/2 body shots is very different to the usual homeless portrait that is usually seen. More typical of corporate headshot techniques. I did however go through several dozen variations of the backdrop colours and layouts, unfortunately I’m not 100% happy it works with the concept and composition but I am torn between, ‘am I being too critical?’ and ‘What can I do to change this?’
If I were to reshoot these images I feel I would shoot closer to the subject to capture more of their expression, I could crop in but it would drop the printable resolution too much for my liking. I would also work more on softening the lighting as one or two of the highlights are just too harsh to tame.
Finally I did create a series of 12 using an edit of the images to create a silhouette effect of the models, I chose not o use those images as I didn’t feel that they added much to the story and where hardening back to the B&W portraits I wished to avoid.