A2 vice versa – submission to tutor

The objective of this assignment is to provide you with an opportunity to explore the themes covered in Part Two with regard to the use of both studio and location for the creation of portraits … develop this further in terms of interchanging the use of portraits taken on location (street) with portraits taken inside (studio). You need to develop a series of five final images to present to the viewer as a themed body of work. (OCA IAP, p55)

Thank you to Rachel, my extremely patient model.


The development of my concept is detailed here. In summary, I wanted to experiment with the psychological impact of how one interacts with a subject to allow them to show something of their deeper self to the camera, as opposed to acting for the camera in a more superficial way. Also, I wanted to shoot in monochrome to allow focus on the essence of the subject without the distraction of colour. The work of Jane Bown in particular influenced me in my approach to the subject and to the use of natural light in many of the photos.

Part of my process was a preliminary meeting with my volunteer, without a camera to set the scene and general direction to the project (see here). My aim was to give the project a collaborative informal feel, rather than one that was directed and staged.

For the assignment, there were two shoots with over 200 photographs; one shoot was indoors and the other outdoors. Details along with contact sheets are here. Making the final selections was an interesting process as there were an number of possibilities for creating a final thematic response to the brief. Combining different photos to create different storylines was a reminder that images have a flexible meaning that can change with the contextualisation with other photographs or text, often with little relationship to actuality.

In the end, I chose not to include any of the outdoor shots in the final selection; there were issues with the quality of light and framing that made it difficult to combine them with the indoor photos into a consistent series. Instead, I used a combination of indoor shots that used available natural light (on location) and indoor shots that used flash and a shoot-through umbrella diffuser to control light quality and depth (in the studio). I also made use of the digital studio, Photoshop, to remove distracting background elements for the ‘studio’ shots; specifically a white radiator panel and and light switch. Katy Grannan’s work that includes subjects contextualised in their everyday surroundings, doing everyday things influenced me in my choice of final selects (see here for more on Grannan).

All images were shot with a Fuji X-T1 and Fujinon xf 35mm f/1.2 lens (efl 50mm). Black and white conversion was done in Nik Silver Efex Pro, with additional post-processing in Lightroom (mostly dodging and burning).

The photos

Each photo says something different about the subject; what it says is down to the reader of the photograph; and the photos have no inherent truthfulness – they are just pictures open to a range of interpretations. The studio-style photos are decontextualised, so the reader is just left to interpret the face as a reflection of personality and thoughts.

Click on images to open as large images in separate window.

Rachel #1
Rachel #2
Rachel #2
Rachel #3
Rachel #3
Rachel #4
Rachel #4
Rachel #5
Rachel #5

Against the OCA assessment criteria, I conclude:

Demonstration of technical and visual skills (40%) – materials, techniques, observational – skills, visual awareness, design and compositional skills.

Technically sound images with natural and flash light, with effective conversion into black and white, optimising tonal ranges. Use of Photoshop to remove unwanted elements in ‘studio’ image (radiator panel and light switch in image #5). Careful observation of the changing face of the subject to capture a range of expressions and emotions.

Quality of outcome (20%) – content, application of knowledge, presentation of work in a coherent manner, discernment, conceptualisation of thoughts, communication of ideas. 

Final selection is consistent with objective of showing ‘on location’ and ‘in the studio’ techniques. It also reflects concept of vice versa through subject’s change of dress from casual to dinner dress. Clear presentation of output, with preparatory work explained in separate posts.

Demonstration of creativity (20%) – imagination, experimentation, invention, development of a personal voice.

Experimented with shooting the same subject in different locations – outdoor, indoor with natural light, and indoor with studio light. Used different point of views, while aim for consistency of framing. Continued to develop my practice of treating portraiture as a discussion with a camera.

Context (20%) – reflection, research, critical thinking (including learning logs).

Research for this assignment specifically is shown in separate posts in this blog section and linked above. Blog shows ongoing work and research on technical aspects of photography, photographers working with portraiture and gallery visits.