Page 1

P H OTO PHOTO EXPRESSIONS

EXPRESSIONS

G O R D O N MC G R E G O R


zion


P H OTO

EXPRESSIONS


All images and text copyright Š 2008 by Gordon McGregor. All Rights Reserved.


P H OTO

EXPRESSIONS PHOTOGRAPHY BY GORDON MCGREGOR


SoFoBoMo. Solo Photographic Book in a Month. It was Paul Butzi’s idea. I blame him totally. Make a photography book. In a month. Shoot all the pictures, make the final selections, edit them, do the layout, decide on the fonts, write all the text, pull it all together in 31 days. How hard can that be? Many photographers want to make a book, but it always seems like such a big mountain to climb. The pictures are never quite good enough. There is so much to learn. It must be too hard. As a result, we never start. Well, SoFoBoMo is the cure for all that. There is no time for the pictures not to be good enough—they’ll have to do. There is no time to learn everything, just learn enough. Put it all together. Work through the process. Make those hard decisions that you could get lost in for months, but make them in a day. Just get on with it and finish, because there is so much to learn along the way. Thank you to all the people who took part this month. I really appreciated the opportunity to take your picture for this project. So here it is. My first finished book. That wasn’t so hard.


For Amanda


Photo Expressions Fleeting. Always changing. Portraits are all about the expressions on the subject’s face. Sure there are all those technical concerns about camera settings, lighting and location but the picture doesn’t come alive until the subject looks alive. In the last year I’ve been learning more and more about taking portraits. Practicing with my long suffering wife, Amanda and patient friends. Getting up the courage to start approaching people in the street, trying to break down those barriers to get an expression that might reveal something of the person behind the public face. Pictures lie. They always have. There’s no great truth hidden in photography. In fact, the various portraits in this book help to show that. Each one taken in isolation says something about the person in the photograph. Looking at one of them you could invent entire life stories about the person—who they are, how they’d be to talk to, if they are dour or cheerful, happy or sad. Chances are, from that one portrait you’d be wrong. But still, these pictures are pictures of that person and emotions they chose to share. So maybe there is a kernel of truth about the real person in there too. Some small truth within all the viewer’s assumptions and projections.

That’s why I decided to put this book together. To try to show how much one person can change within a few seconds. Part of that is a reflection of me, as the photographer and how I managed to interact with them while taking their picture. I tend to be goofy or at least be trying to provoke a reaction. Some people are reserved, others ham it up continually. Sometimes, it can be harder to get an honest picture of those who put on the act. There are often a series of masks on display, rather than their true character. Usually, I’ll pick one image from all of those that I take of a particular person. I’m imposing my own story on them, then and there. Picking the expression that will represent how I want them to be represented. This time I tried to capture a spread of emotions and then let those show something, beyond my own selection. All of these portraits were taken in April ’08. There are a mixed variety of my friends, acquaintances and complete strangers. Some people I’ve known for years, others I’ve just met. The pictures were taken quickly, with just a few minutes shooting. Mostly the light was just where we happened to find ourselves, using anything that was available. Brief


conversations captured in passing. Chance meetings and people generous enough to help me out. After all these portraits, have I learned anything? Amanda keeps saying how changed I am, since moving my photography towards people. How I am more likely to approach strangers. Less guarded. More talkative and confident in groups. I’m still a bundle of nerves inside when I ask someone if I can take their picture. I’m constantly waiting on them saying ‘no’ but I just get on with it now and ask. Some times they say ‘yes’. I’ve learned that a no can often turn into a yes at a later time—they aren’t rejecting you outright, they just don’t want to have their picture taken then and there. How confident I’m feeling when I ask can factor in to how they react. Being bold reaps rewards. I’m continually amazed to find how

much of what you think about other people is just plain wrong. The person who looks angry and that you are sure wouldn’t want to help, turns into your most generous subject for the day. Almost all of the fears and concerns are things I’m projecting onto the people, not who they are at all. The photographs might lie, but we also get it wrong every day, without the pictures to deceive us. The truth or accuracy of the portrait is really secondary for me. Photography and portraiture helps me connect with people. Breaking down those preconceived notions in my head. I’m learning to communicate and make connections quickly, meeting people I’d not normally talk to. Taking these portraits expands my horizons and changes me.


kate


zion


ralph


zion


amanda


zion


joe


zion


jackie


zion


kirk


zion


cybil


zion


chris


zion


zion


zion


ben


zion


nadia


zion


keith


zion


antonio


zion


rebecca


zion


terry


zion


rodney


zion


magdalena


zion


My Approach I think fundamentally I’m lazy. Hopefully it is a smart sort of lazy, but lazy it is. When it comes to making portraits, I try to keep things as simple as I can. I want to spend my time talking to the person I’m photographing, not fiddling with my camera. I use one lens—a Canon 85mm f1.8—a prime lens. No option to zoom, other than with my feet. That is one less thing to think about or fiddle with. I use the lens close to wide open, which lets a lot of light in. As a result, I can shoot in available light without needing a tripod. Less gear, less options, less fiddling, less stuff to carry. I’ll set the lens at around f2.8 and then shoot in aperture priority mode, letting the camera work out the exposure. Hopefully I’ll have found some good light and a consistent or in-theme background and those elements will all roughly line up with the subject. Otherwise I might move the person around a bit, try to get some light into their eyes but in general I don’t give much direction. I like to talk, to have a conversation, and see what happens—shooting as I go along. I’ll be talking, with the camera up at my face, looking for reactions, trying to anticipate when the moment will be right, focusing and shooting as we talk. Those expressions come and go so quickly, you have to be ready.

The wide open aperture helps me be lazy about cleaning my sensor, too. Dust doesn’t show up so easily. I like that the shallow depth of field really brings the attention to the subject and hopefully the eyes, if I’ve focused correctly. After a year of using that 85mm almost exclusively I’m starting to know what the framing will be before I look through the camera. My feet know where they should be to get the composition I want, close enough to talk to the person, far enough away to not be too close for comfort. Keeping things simple lets me keep my attention where it needs to be, working on that communication. Often I’m just prattling on about nothing, but I try to find out something about the subject along the way, something they want to talk about that might help them forget for just a split second that there is a camera pointing right at them. Help them forget that they can see their reflection in the end of the lens. For most people, getting their picture taken is an uncomfortable experience, as if you are being scrutinised under a microscope. I try to move them away from that feeling, sometimes more successfully than others. I’m also lazy about the composition. I don’t know how to deal with all those body parts. So I get in close, shoot a tight head


and shoulders shot. I try to make it more dynamic by playing with the angles within that small frame. ­People’s faces interest me and it also means I can be close enough to have a conversation without yelling. I talk quietly, ­normally, without adding a camera there to block the sound. On the street, with cars passing, noise and other distractions, I’d have to yell. I’m too lazy to do that and more truthfully it doesn’t suit my personality to be that loud and out‑going. I’m also trying to work on keeping my shots consistent so that they hang together as a set of ­i mages, rather than a random assortment of best shots. The similar style of subject distance and ­c o m p o s i t i o n , along with lens choice and camera settings works in my ­f avour there. I shoot with a Canon 1D mkII—a big tank of a camera. The two advantages that it has almost make up for the size and weight. I love that it has a portrait orientation

grip—most of the portraits are shot in, not surprisingly, portrait orientation. The second great feature is the auto‑focus—45 points of fast, ­accurate ­auto‑focus. I always seem to be dancing around across those little red squares, trying to keep the focus locked on the ­closest eye. With the really shallow depth of field the fast prime lens is giving me, I don’t have the option of focusing and recomposing. The AF spot has to be bang on the eye. I want a lighter camera but for now this amazing piece of kit makes all my pictures shine. Processing is all pretty minimal, in Adobe Light­ room. Simple white ­balance tweaks for the RAW files I’ve captured. A bit of saturation, some dust and spot removal. Perhaps a vignette to draw the eye. I’m too lazy to do much Photoshop adjustment. If the image doesn’t work as-is, I move on to the next one. Lazy.


All images edited with Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop. Titles set in M+ Outline. Body text is Arno Pro.

Photo Expressions  

SoFoBoMo. Solo Photographic Book in a Month. It was Paul Butzi’s idea. I blame him totally. Make a photography book. In a month. Shoot all t...

Read more
Read more
Similar to
Popular now
Just for you