Shoot | Portraits Using Flash

The intent with this shoot was experiment with portrait photography at a junior football club in Manchester. With the issue of spectators at football still being phorbidden. The impact on my project has been significant and severely limited the ability to make work which encompasses a human presence. Having recently watched the lecture with Michelle Sank, I wanted to experiment with using an on camera flash as a fill light. On this occation I felt that some of the results were adequate however the flash alone wasn’t enough to overpower the the hard light subsequently failing to eliminate shadows on the face. I tried to encounter this by experimenting with shooting with and against the light.

Figure 1 Andrew Findlay

Figure 1 is an example of an image where I used I utilised the on camera flash. The hard light is illustrated by shadows and is coming from right to left. The primary subject is placed in the middle of the frame with the secondary subject to the left. The secondary image provides a form of conflict due to the red shirt he is wearing. I think this is effective as the child is set against the blue container which I felt was an interesting contrast. In using he flash I was able to level the light on the skin tones to some extent without eliminating them all. the flash was also effective in creating some separation between the head of the central subject and the tree in the background. In conclusion, I am quite pleased with the left side of the image and feel that the range of objects provide multiple layers of interest. The right side of the image I felt is disappointing and I would have liked to encompass a third human presence.

The football kit and the the presence of alternative footwear may allude to a reading of an activity due to be taking place. The clothes he is wearing may connote a Father finishing work in order to take his Son to football training.

Culler, J (1982) Suggests ‘Reading a poem is a quest for unity, and unity is achieved or perceived only when the reader abandons the apparent referential or representational meaning of the discourse and grasps the unifying feature of factor that the various signs of the poem express by indirection’.

In relation to the Culler statement I feel that there are unifying factors such as the work clothes of the central figure, unified with the replacement footwear and the football kit worn by the young boy. However the idea that these signs are expressed by indirection is a source contention. I feel that this is a more complex image than my previous work but with complexity comes further opportunity to fail. I consider this image neither a failure or a victory. The image encompasses elements that I am drawn, there are elements I’m not overly impressed with.

Having addressed the composition of the photograph the next relevant element is the colour of the image. The first relevant observation is the vibrancy of the blue and greens present. They are distributed relatively evenly however they are dominated by the red in the image. I understand that red is a colour that often has the power to dominate an image and requires careful consideration. In this case I feel that it does compete with the white shirt worn by the central figure however I feel that the illumination from the sunlight on the white shirt enhances the power of the central figure. The muted, rich blue of the container provides an interesting frame for the secondary human figure and may serve to enhance the vibrance of the red. A colour I often encounter within my football project is the colour green. As Szarkowski comments in Eggleston regarding the difference of the colour blue and the sky. I feel that I often struggle to work with the colour green and grass.

Figure 2: Andrew Findlay

Figure 2 is an image I am unsure of the success. Shot at a wide focal length of around 24mm. The context of the image is present and layered quite nicely, the full length of the shadow is present which I am pleased and the social housing in the background suggest an area of regeneration. Regarding the subject ‘Danny’. He was doing some extra training alone while while he was waiting for his Father to pick him up from the adjacent car park. He doesn’t look like he’s dressed to play football, his lack of equipment may suggest cultural differences as the location of the football club covers an area of a predominantly white working class community (Reddish). With the neighbouring area (Gorton) Manchester being very diverse with a large community of African heritage.

Figure 3: Andrew Findlay

In addressing figure 3. I felt that for many reasons which I won’t explain, this was my strongest photograph within this collection. In short, I am pleased with the effect of the flash and the luminosity created. However I feel compelled to address the major weakness within this photograph which is the vantage point. The vantage point includes serves to ensure that a pair of street cones around the head of the subject cause a major distraction within the image. The result, is the breaking of one of the central rules of portrait photography. I am inclined to be disappointed with this flaw as it is very much rule one of this type of work. However, in defence of this to myself, I felt that I was concentrating on other aspects such as the flash and bouncing it off the perspex material above that I neglected the main focal point of the image.

Webb, A and Norris Webb, R (2014) cite Arbus ‘It’s important to take bad pictures. It’s the bad ones that have to do with what you’ve never done before. They can make you recognise something you hadn’t seen in a way that you will make you recognise it when you see it again’

Comments such as Arbus perfectly illustrate my reflection regarding figure 3. I will attend this venue again and look to re photograph a similar scene with the due considerations noted in this reflection. As I have good access to this venue I will use this space as to experiment further when working with a human presence. I am known within this community therefore suspicion of me will not be as bad and allow further practice. The possibility of the production of a zine may be an opportunity in this sense.

Figure 4: Andrew Findlay
Figure 5: Andrew Findlay
Figure 6: Andrew Findlay
Figure 7 | Andrew Findlay
Figure 8 | Andrew Findlay
Figure 9 | Andrew Findlay

In relation to figure 9. Webb, A and Webb, R (2014, p67) make a relevant observation when they state regarding the edge of a photograph ‘Where the frame cuts often creates much of the tension in an image-especially in small format photography.’ I am drawn to the figure of a red football boot, partly illuminated by the natural light. This serves to provide anchorage to the image by placing it within a community football context. The logo on the subject on the left, further illustrates this anchorage however a little more obvious. These two elements in their symbiotic relationship I feel may have potential of a poetic nature.

Culler, J (1982) Culler, The Persuit of Signs, Routledge, London.

Eggleston, W. (2002) William Eggleston’s Guide. New York, The Museum of Modern Art.

Webb, A and Webb, R (2014) On Street Photography and the Poetic Image. Aperture, New York

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