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Now onto something new….
This morning I watched a video on Posing for Female Portraits
In it the Author Jeff Smith (photographer) made several definite no nos all of which I found myself decisively violating. I thought it would be a good exercise for myself to analyze my new work and discover my thoughts about why I wanted to violate the “rules of portrait” according to a portrait photographer. The reason I picked a photographer’s guidelines is that it is a little removed from painting… providing a different perspective and maybe a little more market oriented than the rules painters use… Now I must first comment that this photographer is doing portrait photography for clients who want to serve a particular purpose. As such he isn’t trying to do art per se but satisfy clients… But it does give a window into what all clients think and as such I found it good information. However, I was in accord with his idea that the traditional pose of the past wasn’t working anymore because the modern woman just isn’t passive or submissive (thank goodness). Also most of this is directed towards portraits of women, which is my focus at the moment… not that men are worthy 🙂 just a different focus. He does mention men, but alas men you are getting very little time on the radar here. Sorry.
So granted he is talking about portraiture for a different purpose i.e. the Traditional Business Portrait, or Casual Portrait done for Parents or Family or Glamorous Portrait for your husband or boyfriend. I am using the portrait to describe the inner dynamic and for the portrait in a context of natural light with dynamic use of color and light i.e. as a design element for the environment of the client. But this made me realize that maybe artist’s need to consider the new possibility of posing outside of the box for the modern age, and sticking to the traditional posed portrait sitting in a chair or standing by a desk or posed portrait of school models while being admirable in skill isn’t likely to be relevant to clients…
So keeping all that in mind here are his 4 posing no nos the first two I am definitively doing the opposite…
1. never pose the face away from the light…. he is talking about the controlled environment of the studio or controlled lighting environments. So first off I don’t have the space to do a controlled environment study or even sketch… which was the main reason I started plein air painting in the first place… I didn’t have a studio per se. However, when I started working outside, I found enjoyed everything about it particularly the certain serendipity of elements. Light fading, unusual color combination, unique shapes and patterns… Natural settings, strong lighting effects with interesting bouncing light, and high contrasts is my thing. This allows the artist to create high key, dramatic effects with color and light. Obviously you don’t want the subject to become deformed but I feel that in a natural setting, the subject more than likely can’t open her eyes if they are squinting into the natural light of the sun, so looking away is natural, and within that setting one can discover very intriguing subjects particularly using lighting to describe the face contours with sculptural lines. I find that after my initial three years of pieces I was ready to explore this aspect, and chomping at the bit to do so. So although the modern photographer has updated posing to the present century they haven’t gone further out on the limb, which is definitely where I am at, and updated to the next level ie the action, moving and dynamic posing possible in real life settings.
2. never square off the body to the camera… Well I guess if someone wants to pose for fashion industry, … but have you ever noticed how strong a woman’s persona becomes head on. I think because I am trying to depict the strength of women and their force, I actually find the head on challenging expression dynamic straight in the eye by the portrait. Eye to eye, face to face. Why should this be only a man’s purview… sorry Charlie.
3. arms away the body… I agree with this one if possible to do something which is not awkward or ridiculous, obviously in the water environment there is little control over some of your movements so a certain amount of happy circumstance has to happen, but it allows for the subject to express herself in new ways.
4. strong catch lights in the eyes… the eyes are where most of the life is, lighting up the eyes definitely gives the advantage of the artist because you can emphasize and de-emphasize whatever you want through deliberate choices.
5. bounce light up onto the face…again he is talking strictly about the studio or posed photography but using the water subject this has always been a particularly natural emphasis for me… Bouncing color and light, pattern and design and creation of beautiful subject using this combination. The portrait is no different.
Now back to the easel to finish my newest piece with direct gaze, strong sculptural lighting facing away from the light… rules are meant to be broken and to each his/her own.