Wednesday, 25 June 2014

No such thing as a boring face

There's no such thing as a boring face.

From the beginning I've loved the challenge of photographing faces. Faces reveal more about you than any other physical feature. Faces are a storybook of your life. Faces tell the photographer  about your demeanour, how relaxed you are, your alertness and so much more.  The tilt of the head, quiver of a  bottom lip, the knot in the forehead.  I trust faces more than emails or SMSs!

English photographer David Bailey says he falls in love with all his subjects as he shoots them. Bailey has just photographed QE2 (the lady not the ocean liner). I'm sure Bailey fell in love with 'Liz' for a minute or two.

I appreciate physical beauty (as defined by my society) however I am not besotted by it. A face is merely a clock upon the wall, the story of us all. From birth to death I see that every face has a story.

From that first portrait I made by pushing my Hanimex C35 camera lens up my best mate Wolly's left nostril I developed a fascination and a love affair with photographing faces.

Pic 1: Egyptian shopkeeper
Pic 2: Russian ballerina

 Pic 1: On Elephantine Island in Egypt I met a local muslim lady. Hens clucked and sheep wandered aimlessly around us as I asked to make her portrait. Her hard  life and unsophisticated surroundings hadn't daunted her spirit.  Her outlook was positive. She told me she preferred Elephantine Island to the mainland because she felt free from authorities.  She enjoyed the few tourists that came to the island because they purchased goods at her brother's shop.

Pic 2: The retired Russian ballerina is close to twenty years older than the Egyptian lady. Born into a multi-cultural mix of art and dance the prima donna flourished in both business and stage performance. She maintains an almost feverish optimism about the future.  She greets challenges with glee. When she walks into a  room it's like opening a curtain and letting in a bucketload of sunshine.

Is any of this difficult? Not really. But you do need to like people and not be scared of them

  • Use a prime lens - 50mm or 85mm or similar
  • Open aperture up near maximum eg f1.8
  • Focus between the colour and white of near-side eye
  • Position lens a little higher than subject's face
  • Make sure there is great light on subject's face
  • Befriend your subject and remember to say 'Thank you'

We can't all be writers but many of us can be visual biographers with our cameras.

You're invited to join Dale Neill on UWA Extension  'Photographing Faces' workshop.

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