The art of portraiture has existed for (probably) about five thousand years … think of cave drawings and, much later, charcoal sketches, paintings, murals, sculpture … mostly created to record or flatter or adorn buildings.
The history of portraiture is a rich mix of the conventional (think Rembrandt, Gainsborough etc), the surreal (think Picasso, Magritte etc) and the controversial (think Mapplethorpe, Arbus) and is ever-changing, never so much as in the world of digital technology.
My portraits are the result of many influences and genres from over the centuries, not only designed to record, but to entertain, amuse and, sometimes, tease out a touch of the unusual. They fall roughly (but not always) into four categories – As Seen, Textured, Composites and Altered Reality …. but, then, there’s also Believable Reality ….
Image: Quiet Reflection
My definition of As Seen is a photograph, shot either in the studio or on location, which has had no added elements.
I always shoot in RAW (Nikon or Olympus) and usually post process in Adobe Lightroom, although latterly I have begun to do just about all of my dodging, burning and colour correction in Photoshop, using the Curves tool.
Image: Hidden Charms (detail)
A texture can be a picture of literally anything – a tree, a wall, a piece of fabric, a cat’s fur, the inside of a saucepan, a tin of waste paint – the possibilities are endless and I have used all of the above. I use textures in Photoshop but there are other editing programmes which will do the job. (I don’t know what they are, though) Lots of layers of textures works best for me, masking off unwanted bits in each layer until I have the result I want.
Image: The Girl in the Red Scarf (detail)
We’re getting into murky territory now, because the lines between Composites and Believable Reality are incredibly thin. I consider it a composite if it is comprised of two different photographs, with or without textures. Occasionally, a composite will run away with me and become Altered Reality.
Image: Don’t Believe the Bullshit (detail)
An Altered Reality picture, to me, is one with a fairly heavy dose of the surreal – i.e. something that wouldn’t happen in ‘real life’ – they just about always have their genesis in a studio shot of a person, so I bring them (loosely) under the umbrella of Portraiture. They are built with many layers, both photographs and textures, and I often have to have recourse to YouTube to learn a new skill I hadn’t foreseen cropping up. Luckily, I love computer work just as much as photography.
Image: Time Waits for No One
My little ballet dancers here were dancing on completely different days, so they are two As Seen pictures combined into a Composite, but also Textured, with a few added layers to match the shadows.
See, I told you the dividing lines were very fine.
Image: Beginners, Please