After capturing some good quality banal shots of this subject’s personal possessions on my first visit I was under pressure to keep up this quality when I returned specifically to photograph his naked portraits. Again I find it very ironic that in a project where I set-out to explore anonymity I have another model who is happy to allow his face to be seen. When I discussed this with him along with my intent he questioned whether it was my calming and trusting demeanour which has enabled my sitters to reveal more than they might for this project.
And while researching other practitioners I noticed their use of colour in comparison to my own. In the past I have always been drawn to work with B&W and keep trying to persuade myself to utilise colour more. I find it interesting that subconsciously I am creating images for this project I am favouring rich saturated cinematic colours rather than the current trend for a more pale, washed-out naturalistic style that I keep thinking of as Nordic imagery. It could be my eye for B&W that has heavily influenced my eye for shooting colour.
(Fig. 1) I wanted to return to using mirrors as part of my intent is to explore our fear of what reflections reveal to us. I keep mentioning Sontag’s theory that we fear the disapproval of the camera (Sontag p.65) yet what we fear more are the flaws we fixate upon whenever we gaze at our reflected self. I wanted to use mirrors as a weapon to counteract this unhealthy self-criticism. This is not a well composed image with one object sliced off from each side of the shot & the focus of interest placed in the middle rather than adhering to the aesthetic rule of thirds. Yet I feel this adds to the candour of the picture. Had it been geometrically composed it may have looked too ‘commercial’ when a large part of my intent is the images should look more natural and therefore more truthful. The crashing waves and jagged rocks of the painting above the models head contrast with the calmness of the rest of the image. What appears to be a single rose held above his head and the empty pillow beside him speak of an unfulfilled romance and the wistful expression on his face add to this feeling. You could even read the gaze of the faithful dog (albeit a china one) looking at his master while the master gazes out at the viewer as another metaphor for the search for companionship.
(Fig. 2) Although not initially obvious this is another mirror shot. I was trying to frame him within the frame of the mirror to symbolise his worth of being selected as frame-able. However when the shot was captured this didn’t really come across so I simply cropped out the frame of the mirror to leave this as the simple shot it is. Again there is the empty space in the bed beside him with his hand suggestively placed where there should be no empty space. This is by far the weakest image from the shoot.
(Fig. 3) I feel there is a gentle level of campness to this image. The mirror is very theatrical making the setup appear like a performance for the audience which contrasts with the reality of it being a private moment. His body position is nicely natural which infers this to be in the realms of a naked form rather than a displayed nude. An eagle eyed knowledgeable viewer will recognise fragments of my tattoos in the mirror tiles on the right bringing the photographer into the event as part of the performance.
(Fig. 4) The converging parallels and gaze of the model draw the viewer’s eye up the image to the gilt swag that acts as a barrier preventing the eyes drifting out of the frame. The same gilt swag has connotations of Greek Classical adornments which places the imagery of Greek statues in the mind of the viewer. We then read these inferences when we look at the naked subject and he takes on this iconography to be elevated to the level of a marble carving. Unfortunately it doesn’t quite suit the ethos of my project, but I hope the model himself will be quietly pleased with how he looks.
(Fig. 5) I would be very tempted to use this shot for my Work in Progress Portfolio except for the fact it was not shot in a mirror. It has a lot of the elements I have been searching for when capturing these images. And there are some lovely subtle signs to create a narrative to the piece. The monkey covering his eyes is a humorous symbol & the expression of the teddy bear seems to marry with the mournful look of the model. I had asked him to look straight down the lens, but his eyes seem to be downcast slightly further which places him in a more vulnerable position. The light beside him contrasts symbolically with the dark lantern over his shoulder. The muted colour tones and subtle bokeh make for an emotive shot which also precludes it from my edit as I am striving for a stronger positive tone and would rather not pander to the doomed homosexual stereotype.
Sontag, S. On Photography (New York: Penguin Books, 1977)