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Self-portraits: head shots

One benefit to the photographer of self-portraits is a free and hopefully patient model, allowing some experimentation with camera settings and lighting, as well as an exploration of self-identity. As interesting is the feeling of being photographed, even if by oneself. How should one respond to the machine? The self-consciousness, the acting, the unfamiliarity of looking into a mechanical eye without feedback.

I sat for a long evening in front of my camera, with flash on a light-stand and a wi-fi remote app to control the camera (Fuji X-T1). I toyed with two lenses; a 10-24mm and an 18-135mm. Things I learnt:

  • The wide-angle lens left me isolated in the image, no matter how close to the lens I pulled in. None of these photos were successful as there was little of interest in the background. There was no narrative.
  • It takes time to relax in front of a silent companion – it has to be a game of acting for a portrait. One has to play and have some fun. Otherwise there is an uncomfortable stiffness.
  • A small difference in the direction of the gaze of the eyes makes a big impression on the image – the eyes are punctum, we are conditioned to watching eye movements.
  • The leaning of the head to the side, forward or back – even if slight – also makes a big impression. Are we attentive, disinterested, relaxed?
  • Finally the hands – I’m not a natural ‘hand-talker’ but brining them into play adds another element of interest to the photo.

To make an interesting portrait, one needs to act out a drama. It is not enough to ‘sit’.

Here are some contact sheets from the shoot – all converted to black and white (to disguise my troubled winter skin!).

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