As part of improving my visibility I have been entering competitions including a number on LensCulture. For this competition I submitted a group of 5 images that cover some recent portrait work plus a couple of older images from my portfolio.
I rearranged your submission putting the ones I think are strongest in the beginning. of the images you submitted, I feel that “Beacon of light for lost souls” is the strongest creative portrait. even by the title there seems to be more to the image than what we can see. in that image you have constructed a series of textures, props, and lightning that begin to tell a more elaborate story about either this person or about you. I enjoy looking around that image and trying to figure out the relationship between the painting, the model, the light, and the location. this image offers me something more that would make me want to continue to look at it over time. the weakest image you submitted is “Caravaggio love story remastered”, the image is very simple, I want more in the image I am looking for a visual story to be told to me.
At university, I was often told by my professors that every image you make should ‘add to the vernacular of the medium’. and what that means is that by the mere existence of your new photos you have enhanced or advanced the language of photography through some new technique, concept, aesthetic quality, etc. This is something that we all strive to do with every click of the shutter. we should want to stand on the shoulders of the giants that came before us and create something new that adds to the medium. the world admires leaders more than followers.
I believe that you should be leading, not following. do not worry if you do not fit into someones defined boxes of style. you should aspire to be leading the photo world into a new style. if you are trying to fit into a preexisting concept of a style, then you are already following the lead of others. stay true to yourself, push the limits (while not alienating paying clients). if you are true to your personal creative vision the photo world will follow your lead.
after being in the photo world for over 30 years (same as you), I have found that there are two elements that we all need to think about when we are shooting and editing are the ‘why’ and ‘authorship’. the why being the why did you create these images, what drove you to make them and in turn why should someone want to view then (or publish them, exhibit them, or buy them)? and then their is authorship, which is the consistent visual quality that say to any viewer ‘that photo was made by Simon Fremont’ without even seeing the credit or label. that the image has an iconic style and look that is distinct to you and that looks like no one else. Just to be clear these are the two most difficult things that artist strive for their entire careers. but you should be always thinking about it and pushing towards these understandings.
you asked “What can the reader discern about the sitter based on the images within the series”. I think you are doing a great job. your concern about creating unique portraits is a balancing act. you need to find the appropriate equipment (lens, camera, maybe film, location, lighting, etc) and balance that with a great relationship with the subjects. often times photographers are trying to make their subjects feel comfortable an vulnerable to allow those very personal and intimate portraits to be captured. in the end, there is no perfect method of creating photos, there is the method that works most effectively for you to capture the images that are meaningful to your intention. what we read is what you are able to capture.
It was interesting that the more recent portrait images submitted were viewed as the stronger images which is a reflection on the way my photographic style has continued to develop over the last couple of years in genres outside of those that I am shooting for my MA projects. The second element I found interesting was the fact that the images that incorporated more environment compared to the earlier images where I had selected a very tight crop to capture the sitter. The other element that was a pleasant surprise was the feedback on the titles that I had selected for the images in the portrait portfolio.
The feedback was very encouraging and suggest that when I apply an appropriate level of attention to my image making I can create strong images that have the potential to say something different from the ordinary or mundane.