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Friday, 10 October 2008

Paul Graham on Portraiture

More from Paul Graham from End of An Age

“Because portraits are one of the most profound things that one can do – to express who we are through our material presence. To look at someone, to simply and truly see someone, and express their sentience.

This is a starting point with the portraits I have tried to achieve in my piece of work, I am attempting to show the dignity in the human beings I have photographed. By including the space they occupy for whatever reason that may be, shows how the space is being used, whether that be an interior of a church or a warehouse used for a clothing manufacturer, the area surrounding the person conveys a little more about the personthemselves. I wanted the viewer to have a direct connection with the subject, which is why many of the individuals in their environment are looking straight towards the camera and are the main focus of attention. The environment reveals more about the person themselves and also the reason they occupy the area. In the objective study and scrutiny of the individual I am trying to reveal more that is initially hidden beneath the surface.

Whether this is successful or not often depends a lot upon the individual and whether they want to reveal anything of themselves. Today people are so aware when a camera is pointed at them it is difficult to reveal anything other than a record of that moment in time with the individual, but I am trying to achieve some sort of connection with the person in front of me, and also with the viewer without any irony or cynicism. There is a certain amount of trust between myself and the sitter as I explain the reason behind the images and what I hope to achieve with them, but there is still a power dynamic involved with all portraiture, ultimately I am trying to make it believable but with a slight moment of tension. With this slight tension, either in a look or in the pose of the individual, I am trying to allude again to the sense of unease and alienation in the city the size of London.

Due to the fact that all the images were taken using a medium format camera and a tripod, which slows down the whole process of taking a portrait, it affects the whole procedure and gives the subject time to get used to the process of being photographed and gives me time to further explain what I am trying to achieve."

(Thanks to Tadhg Devlin for this)

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