Thursday, March 30, 2017

Advice for photography professors and students of photography

When I first became interested in being a photographer, I knew it was the human portrait I wanted to focus on.  I knew that what makes a portrait powerful is the communication and interaction that needs to take place between the photographer and her/his subject. It's crucial, especially in a studio environment. I don't know if it's my personality or that I began photographing people in my mid-twenties but I never had a problem asking people if I could photograph them and explain why and what I want to pose them like but that might just be me.

Which brings me to today's blog topic. As an art model, I have rarely posed for photography simply because I always felt it was a conflict of interest since my photographs are of me but over time, and the need for money, I changed my mind - at least in the realm of classes. I still won't pose for other professional or art photographers unless we are collaborating, but when it's for students, I have realized it's not a conflict. They are learning.

 So the last 2 days, I posed for two different photo classes at one graphic arts school and I would like to post my observations.

In a photography studio in a classroom environment, where a model is present, there is something I have noticed. One - the students are understandably shy (even more so if the model is posing nude, which I was.) so they are afraid to approach me at all. Two - they rarely have a clear idea in mind of what they want to photograph nor do they take a minute to think about it when they see me. I imagine with different models, some ideas will spark. 

In two days, each student took turns photographing me. They had to explain to me what they wanted. I am warm and friendly and also since I was nude, I wanted to try and make it less "painful" for them as possible...or so I thought it would be.

Out of 20-25 students, I only posed 4 different ways, basically - curled up for close-up abstracted body parts, me looking dead, me moving around like an animal being caught (not sure what to think of that one) or me completely straight and frontal. I did get asked to dance for movement by one and there was another who projected designs on me. Not one wanted portraits. I posed briefly in a costume and NO ONE wanted to photograph me that way. When I lied down nude looking "dead", however, it was as if the paparazzi was all over me.  

Also, the students were more concerned with shooting fast and playing the image back than they were with connecting to me the model. Ah, the problem with the digital age. But in the end, no one explained much nor directed me but I did get a "thank you".  Luckily, I am so wonderful, that I didn't need any direction, anyway (ha ha ha ha).

Side note: There was the setup. There were 2 backdrops - one white paper one and one blue paper one. OK, not a lot of imagination there but if they were studying light and were just starting out, it's what they need to use. There were many lights ready to use but it seemed harsh monolights that had a change of either cool or warm tones were the only ones used. No one experimented with diffusers or moved around the barn doors to see what the light did.They did move the lights around but it was when the professor suggested they did. I am also not sure if they "saw" what was happening with the light as they moved it back and forth and such. I think more playing should have taken place but, ah, my apologies, I completely digress.

At the end of the classes, I thought to myself that maybe things were not really explained to the students about working with models. Whether I am right about that or not, I want to say here that it is very important that the students are talked to about what a model/photographer relationship consists of. Making a model feel comfortable, conveying clearly what he/she wants the model to do, not be afraid to fix the clothing/hair, etc. and just to be in constant interaction.

I also think that students need inspiration that is not always just the current fashion trend in magazines. I realize that many aspiring photographers want to work for Vogue and the like, but they need to see that some of the greatest fashion photographers were inspired by painters, sculptures and other forms of art. They should look at the photography of Annie Liebovitz, Herb Ritts, Irving Penn, Richard Avedon and then even Sara Moon, Helmut Newton and Ellen von Unwerth.  Look at Old and New Masters in painting and study composition and have the students research why they want to photograph people.

My two cents worth as a portrait photographer and a model....

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