Candid & Photojournalistic / Natural light

Self immersion / Personal reportage

This is something I’ve been wanting to share for a while, and as I now have the time to sit down and write it up properly, here it is at last.

Back in the first semester of my course, we had a history based research project where the final outcome was to produce a body of work that showed the influence of the photographers you had studied.

My influences included the work of:

  • Annie Leibovitz – in her Rolling Stone days.
  • Terence Spencer – Who photographed The Beatles (and their fans) on their first trip to America.
  • Don Cravens – A press photographer (I was looking at his photos of Elvis).
  • Alfred Eisenstadt – A photographer for LIFE who took the famous VJ day photo.

and to a lesser degree, August Sander, Dorothea Lange, Lewis Hine and Steve McCurry.

My concept was ‘self immersion’, a term I use to describe a personal reportage style, where the viewer becomes more than somebody casually observing an image (such as my flower photography or a formal portrait) and instead can relate or become involved in the emotion or scene played out in the photo. In my opinion, self immersion is:

  • A photojournalistic style of shooting
  • Generally unposed
  • Often depicting everyday routines
  • Candid
  • Capturing emotion not usually seen in formal portraiture

To paraphrase Annie Leibovitz in her documentary, “Life through a lens” – capture the bits between the story. Something that doesn’t seem to be anything can really be something.

Whilst on tour with the Rolling Stones (and shooting for the magazine, Rolling Stone) Annie immersed herself into the surroundings and what was going on so well that the camera almost became an extension of her, capturing her memories of simple things such as rehearsals, conversations, sleeping. She took images at unexpected moments of scenes that many would dismiss but that paint a better picture of an event. For example – her images of Arnold Schwarzenegger going to body building championships. Rather than just the ‘expected’ images of him of him posing, she shot getting ready, behind the scenes training, resting etc.

This style of empathy, immersion and photojournalism by these great photographers has (consciously or otherwise) influenced domestic portraiture, as more clients seek images that capture their ‘spirit’ better than the traditional portrait.

Personally, I like my lens to be an extension of my eye. I will sit at a table and snap away whilst having a conversation. The subject is at ease and emotion is more realistic than if I stood some distance away. I like to get on the same eye level as my subjects and become part of the scene – sometimes literally by using reflections etc. Some of my favourite images are the ‘out-takes’- All the little un-posed moments that reveal so much more than simply somebody standing in front of a backdrop.

I hope you enjoy the images I took to illustrate this research. It was a great project, and I hope to continue what I’ve learnt from this as I develop and fine-tune my own style.

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