Thursday, 25 July 2013

The perils of trying too hard...

It may sound strange but sometimes we, as photographers, try just a little too hard to be creative and can end up producing pictures that say more about ourselves than our subjects.

I may have been slightly guilty of this when I recently photographed the multi-talented Frédéric Beigbeder, french author, critic and celebrity (amongst a dozen other acheivements) for Radar magazine.

I had this idea that I wanted to portray his fizzing energy and somehow retain the reflectiveness that I strive for in my portraits. So I purposefully shook the camera on a long exposure to make wild shapes with the ambient light while holding my subject motionless with flash.

Here are a couple of the results.

From a colour perspective I really like the mixture of strobe lighting mixed with the very warm tungsten on the extended exposure. The Camera movements were intentional but slightly random and hard to predict where the light was going to wash into Frédéric himself.

Maybe this one is has more stillness to the pose and more reflectiveness but it wouldn't hold a page and Radar went with the frame above...

Frédéric himself was very patient through this slightly unpredictable process although he did think I was having some kind of medical episode when I first started shaking the camera around! He was very cool about the whole session and much funnier in real life than he appears in the pictures.

PS. I would appreciate any comments and opinions as to whether these shots work or if they are just a bit too contrived...


Paul Treacy said...

My concern is that you've chopped off his hands. Seems a bit violent. Either in a little closer or pull back some. This makes the images a little awkward for me.

Otherwise I like what you're going for. Risky certainly but it captures the "fizzy energy" as you say.

Paul Treacy said...

Should have been, "fizzing energy".

Justin Sutcliffe said...

Paul, thank you for your comments and constructive suggestions. Some of the shots are a little looser but either the light patterns were too intrusive or the expression was wrong. It's not something I'll use very often and I posted it more as a way of seeing if they looked too gimmicky. On balance I think they do but as long as I don't make it my signature style I think it falls under acceptable experimentation....
Out of interest I did also do a lot of more conventionally lit versions of the same shot and some other set-ups just to make sure I had variety.

jezblog said...

I like 'em.... most portraits are a construct you kind of empose on the sitter...... I am in a NYC studio right now with a big picture on the wall in front of me by one of the most famed portrait photographers in the world..... I know its by him because he has a very recognisable style that he brings with him and imposes on the sitter in this case Clint Eastwood ...... :-))) .....this one of yours is one where the techniique kind of pushes at you as much as his features but it has more energy than many portraits consequently ...... if I was gonna make constructive remarks as to how it might be different.... maybe better.... if you were doing it again..... i kinda feel if he himself were more enervated he would match the technique more and therefore the image would feel more unitary....... and possibly if his face were bigger in the frame..... his features might hold the attention more...... these are suggestions only....... I still like it as it is :-)))

Cheers Jez XXXXXXX

Justin Sutcliffe said...

Jez, Thank you for your comments and constructive suggestions.
it was a bit of experimentation that nearly worked I think. The idea was to contrast his stillness and gravitas with the energy he was showing off camera.

He is a very energetic guy who also want to project his reputation for serious intellect.

Glad to hear your suggestions and there were a few in the take that were a bit tighter or a bit wider but the long exposures ate up the time and so after a while I also shot some more conventional lit portraits before time ran out.

Not sure I would try to use this technique very often though.

Thanks again for your suggestions and for reading.