This triptych is the result of an attempt at self-portraiture last weekend, with the Self-Portrait workshop ran jointly by Nadirah Zakariya and I, as part of the Exposure+ Photo series of workshops.
The workshop covered the historical aspects of the painted portrait from the Middle Ages through to the Renaissance era and I shared the premise that many master painters utilised photography to influence their great works. I presented how the purpose of portraiture has changed with the invention of the camera and the negative, allowing the masses to make low cost reproducible photographs. In the second half, Nadirah presented and shared the works of contemporary photographers who specialises in self portraits, before setting a task for each participant to shoot a set of home self-portraits to be presented the following week.
Shooting the self isn’t as straightforward as it appears, as there are perhaps more preparations to plan out than photographing another, since you are both the subject and the camera operator. Composition, framing and concept is mostly trial and error. As is focusing, and tripping the shutter – a manual affair for my old school set up. I learnt from the other participants that they used a wifi-controlled app on their phones to compose and shoot themselves – and there was I, darting back and forth from camera to pose, checking framing and focus constantly.
I wanted to make a series of tight head shots with my 90mm at the closest focus distance of 1m, shooting wide open, but obtaining pin point focus was a task in itself, since the DOF is so shallow. Overall I took over 50 shots, most were slightly out of focus or the framing was off. Perhaps I will use a 28mm next time.
Coming up with a concept may not be easy for most, including myself. Self-portraits aren’t my strong point. I seldom even take selfies, but this workshop task has opened up a new way of representation and self-expression that is worth a second look and can be quite liberating.
Incidentally, KLPA‘s theme this year is ‘Sense of Self’ in the Single Image category and is now open for entries.
My neighbour Elizabeth is an elderly spinster who has been very ill ever since I moved in next door to her last year. She is bedridden and does not go out, and she gets visits from carers several times a day to feed and care for her. Since February this year, she deteriorated and I understand she is now staying in a local care home.
Her garden is completely overgrown but there grows some beautiful wild weed, roses, blackberries and shady trees.
Discovering that all the local trees have sprouted their leaves and blooming with flowers since we entered the lockdown in early March, I took a walk along the towpaths of the River Wey about 15 minutes away.
On a small private island, there is a public park with many mature trees, some are in full bloom, like this one, a hawthorn. Simply magical, shady and fragrant.
Earth Day 2020 today, calls for Climate Action. Clean air is a major factor to healthy living. During the current pandemic, many industrial centres across the world – China, India – have seen a dramatic improvement if air quality and a reduction in CO2 emissions. In the UK there are current research into the causative effects of London’s highly polluted air and the number of serious COVID-19 patients. The city of Milan in Lombardy, the most polluted and affected region in Italy, has announced an ambitious plan to rededicate 35kms of city centre roads to cycle and pedestrian use this summer.
I hope for a cleaner and healthier post-pandemic world, which could begin with forest regeneration and less reliant on fossil fuels.
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