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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On Assignment: 150 portraits in 3 days

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One of the more ‘interesting’ recent assignments I had* was a series of corporate portraits – by series, I mean 150, with full makeup and retouching. We had 150 to do over the course of three days – which isn’t a particularly punishing schedule, but when you have to work around the subjects’ schedules, then time tends to contract into mad rushes interspersed by soporific periods of inactivity while waiting. Made worse was the fact that there was no formal scheduling – the subjects were consultants. The real challenge wasn’t so much the shooting as getting all of the subjects to turn up at all: between egos, vanity, laziness and general contempt of management in some cases, my poor client – the management – had fun trying to cajole, threaten and bribe them into showing up. In the end, I think we got about 110 of the total, with about 15-20 being on leave or at other locations, and the rest simply refusing to cooperate. It’s amazing how such educated people can sometimes be so incredibly difficult…

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