It may seem strange that a portrait shooter would engage in conceptual work. I view it along the lines of exercise for the mind. And soul. And it all gets fed back into the mainstream of work.
This isn’t something new. Artists have been doing it since, well, forever.
Photography could be described as the intersection of art and technology. By engaging in conceptual work it feels more like art, while ironically perhaps employing more technology to achieve it.
In my previous post I blogged about my latest conceptual piece, which I call “Standoff.” It’s a concept I’ve had in mind for a while. The final image required use of a composite, and was more detailed than I originally had envisioned; it was the result of merging 3 photographs and 2 textures. Plus a myriad of details which were created in Photoshop – the puddle, the beams of light, the color. The shadows.
It was a fun shoot for both me and the model. It didn’t take long for the studio portion, and the final image really came together fairly quickly, although there was a lot of tedious work to be done. This all translates into meaningful exercise – again for both photographer and model. Being an actor is part of any shoot for the subject. You are after all not in a natural setting. You really have to try to be yourself, and do so in a flattering way. Coaching by the photographer helps, but the more practice the better. Using dancers in conceptual work, or actors, makes things go much easier. Both are used to projecting personality to an audience, with the dancer adding body language and control.
I owe a great deal to photographers like Dave Hill who pioneered this approach. Actually, he is a contemporary pioneer – Bert Stern was doing stuff like this back in the analog days of the late 50s and early 60s. Both are giants whose shoulders I am proud to stand on. I also owe to Calvin Hollywood and Joel Grimes. And so on.
I can see contemporary portraits employing more and more elements from conceptual shooting. There is no reason that anyone can’t enjoy an image created like those produced in Vanity Fair or similar magazines. Big budget shoots, because of digital processes, can convincingly be made with a low budget approach by compositing. The images we see in these publications become iconic, not just because of who is in them but the context in which they were made. This is the democratization of iconic images!
Shooting conceptual stuff – including still life – adds ideas, tools, and skills to what I can offer. It demonstrates what I am capable of delivering and how I approach and solve a problem. And it’s just fun to do – for everyone involved.