Photoessay: student portraits

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JJ, Latchezar and Pavel, Tokyo

I set myself a little project during the course of the last few Masterclasses: whilst my students are photographing, I’m photographing my students. I think of it as an exercise to hone environmental portraiture to some degree, and to keep my people-photography skills in practice. Portraiture is not something I talk much about because I think it’s far less about technique and execution than it is about building a relationship with your subject and then somehow translating that intangible into something visual. It is one of the few types of photography that perhaps relies more heavily on the subject than the quality of light – body language is far more critical than shadow direction; even if we can’t see the details, we have a feel for what the person’s posture might mean. The photographer must therefore be doing three things at once: keeping up the real connection between themselves and the subject – even if nothing is being said; being conscious of body language at a level higher than the casual observer, and beyond that, taking care of the four things. This series has been curated from the Tokyo, Chicago and Hanoi sessions. Enjoy! MT

Images shot with various equipment and processed with The Monochrome Masterclass workflow or Photoshop Workflow II. You can also look over my shoulder at the underlying postprocessing in the Weekly Photoshop Workflow series.

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Dan, Chicago

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Pavel, Tokyo

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Caleb, Tokyo

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Alex, Chicago

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Gaby, Chicago

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Mark, Tokyo

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JJ, Tokyo

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Mike, Chicago

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Andre, Chicago

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Caleb, Tokyo

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Kathleen S, Chicago

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Pavel, Hanoi

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Stefan, Hanoi

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Peter, Chicago

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Kathleen B, Chicago


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  1. Interesting to see portraits of the many people who all share the same passion.

  2. That photo of Peter is classic! It’s almost like a throwback to the days of Kodachrome magazine photos.

  3. dlqdprn says:

    Lovely portraits.

  4. Your photoessay captures the passion, persistence, and joy made possible by your masterclasses!

  5. Nice set….so thats what Pavel looks like! Love that profile shot of him….very distinguished….impressive jawline Pavel! The shot of Peter in Chicago is beautiful. You want a real challenge though? Make me look good! Actually….don’t…I HATE having my picture taken! I’ll just keep practicing on Gerner.

  6. Alex Carnes says:

    Kathleen’s brilliant. I hope you showed her how to hold the camera properly though! 😉

  7. rjllane says:

    Lovely work. Fascinating to observe the students, many “in action”.

    Several things stood out. First, there was the humor in the first photograph – surrounded by so much camera gear, what are they lloking at? A picture on an iPhone!

    And second, the length of the lenses being used in what appreared in many cases to be street scenes. Most street shooters that I read about and know use lenses with focal lengths in the 28-50 range. Many of the lenses above looked to be much longer that this. Perhaps I don’t know these cameras and lenses, though.

    Very good photography on your part as well. I bet that the images were praised and valued by the students themselves.

    🙂 … MomentsForZen (Richard)

    P.S., I am a rank amateur who enjoys both of my cameras – an iPhone mostly (the challenge is the appeal), and a Hasselblad 500 C/M since Christmas just past. Loving a return to such a manual experience – i.e., I started in the early 1970’s with an OM-1.

    • Thanks. What you’re of course not seeing is what’s on the other side of the camera – there was quite a bit of urban abstraction and cinematic work going on, which generally needs longer lenses. As for the iPhone…I cannot explain that one! 🙂

  8. Nice set Ming! Andre, Paul and Kathleen B&W are my favorites.


  1. […] me than a series of images of people shooting or in conversation (though these make for interesting student portraits, which will be an ongoing series) We had great weather for pretty much the entire Masterclass and […]

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