As with some of the other exercises, I have generally taken longer in planning and shooting than most I would imagine – though I can’t guarantee that there is any real benefit from this. I planned out who/ when/ where/ why in my notebook all before going out. I had two potential places and structures in mind before I eventually settled on one. The first one was based on Henri Rousseau’s Self Portrait (1890), National Gallery, Prague – set by the docks, I had thought that I would take by father there as this is where his grandfather had worked. This got dumped when due to the fact I don’t actually like Rousseau, I couldn’t bring myself to use him as an influence. However I had decided the idea of my father and his grandfather – a ‘near and far’ concept – pretty cheesy I know – was going to be the basis for the work. Plus I had already roped my dad in, so I didn’t want to cancel him.
The second plan then was to take my dad to the cemetery where his family are buried. Its a large cemetery and had the potential for some interesting images – large burial vaults etc. When I planned out the head shots, head and shoulders etc, it made me think of Bill Brandt’s portrait of Francis Bacon, so this became the real starting point of the exercise.
Normally I would aim for more urban environments so this was a slight change of scene. In retrospect I knew what I wanted but really should have instructed my dad more – used him more definitely as a model – been more demanding.
I wanted my dad to dress like my dad. I have often spent the best part of a day wandering around while he takes some pictures – we have different approaches to photography – so having him dressed as he would dress for this, is how I wanted him.
I kept my kit simple. Simple 50mm lens cause it has a good wide aperture, so that I could get some a shallow depth of field/ then also adhere to the required depth in the frame for the exercise. It said keep everything in focus, so I wanted to make sure I had some shots like that, but I knew I wouldn’t limit myself to that. Plus, I also wanted to travel light and didn’t want to be changing lens if I could help it.
I never use black and white. Its not that I don’t like it, but it generally isn’t appropriate for what I am doing. But for some reason, probably the Bill Brandt vibe I had in my head, I had decided that this would be some b&w images. I obviously shot in colour and then converted in processing. I kept the changes generally quite simple and really just heightened some of the contrasts, and played with the blacks to try and Brandt the images.
Bill Brandt, Francis Bacon on Primrose Hill (1963), http://www.vam.ac.uk/content/articles/b/bill-brandt-biography/
Henri Rousseau, Self-Portrait (1890), http://www.britannica.com/topic/Myself-Portrait-Landscape