Friday, February 26, 2010

Staring Back

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“Staring Back” is the current working title for the portrait exhibition this May.

Originally I thought I could just take a cross section of my favourite images, but then I started thinking, “so what?” There are plenty of portrait photographers out there already, and while you might want them to do your wedding, you wouldn’t go and see an exhibition of their work.

An exhibition needs to have more impact.

So after much mulling, debating and experiencing a plethora of panic attacks, I’ve decided my exhibition will display photos where each image has someone staring back at the viewer.

We look at faces all the time. Every time we chat to someone face to face, we are looking at them; indeed it is considered quite rude not to.

However, we don’t examine faces when we are talking to people. In fact if we become aware someone is examining our face, we feel distinctly uncomfortable. A line has been crossed; an unspoken taboo, broken.

When we look at portraits, though, we are actively encouraged to examine the faces. With no fear of upsetting anyone, we are allowed to look at all the lines, shadows and textures.

But if we are trying to examine a portrait photograph, and the person in it is staring back at us, then it reactivates our sense of uncertainty. On the one hand we know it’s just a photo, but at the same time our brains are hardwired to feel uncomfortable under the rigid gaze of another person.

The upshot of this will be, rather than being just an exhibition of interesting faces or shots, it will evoke an emotional response, a sense of feeling a bit off-balance.

And I fully expect some people to dislike it. My hope is that others will find it infinitely more rewarding.

I don’t have enough photos of this kind yet, so I’m busy phoning friends and colleagues and trying to convince them they would love to have me thrusting my camera into their faces.

Time is short...
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34 comments:

Carrie said...

Wow. I really love this idea. :) I'm going to keep my fingers crossed for some sort of blog preview.

Jennifer said...

This is an interesting concept. Will you allow your blog followers to participate in an online exhibition as well?

Annie said...

Great idea Kim. I think there is something about photographs where the subject is staring right at you. Eye contact is un-nerving, even in a photograph, but it definately gives impact.

I'm currently trying to decide on 6 photographs for our camera club comp (hand in on monday) and the subject is mono portraits. Not my speciality area so I'm struggling a bit, but two of the shots definately going in have the eyes staring right at you.

Good luck with getting it all together :)

Charlie said...

I like it, Kim. Eryl has a great face, and I love the couple of wedding dress photos you've done.

And Meg definitely needs to be there!

mapstew said...

Great idea Kim.

I hate having my picture taken, but, having seen your work, I would quite happily sit for you if I were closer!

I wish you all the best.

:¬)

Ruth said...

Oh I love eye contact. I'm sure I would love your exhibition, I would completely love it! And if I could, I would happily stare back at your camera. :D

Jayne Martin said...

I think you're onto something. And, yes, all good art should evoke an emotional response. Some people will get it and some won't, but that's never the artist's problem. You sound like you're getting excited. Good for you!

Eryl Shields said...

It sounds like it's really coming together. Can't wait to see it.

Helen said...

Hey Bearded One - sounds like a great concept and one that you can have a lot of fun with!!! You NEED to have Meg in that exhibition.....

Fay's Too said...

The prospect is frightening - having someone take my picture straight on. So honest. Which is why your exhibit is going to be such a great success.

Pat said...

Great idea. Now you have a theme it will fall into place and take shape.
I'm sure your friends and acquaintances will cooperate.
BTW Kevin has a light box and says it makes a difference - even if it's a placebo effect.

Kim Ayres said...

Carrie - as I mentioned in my reply to Ron in the last post, this blog is full of whatever happens to be on my mind at the time, and this exhibition is definitely on my mind a great deal, so you can be sure of plenty more posts to come about it. In fact there might be a problem writing about anything else...

Jennifer - one way or another you'll get to see all the images online :)

Annie - Will you put the ones you choose up on The Corner?

Charlie - Eryl has a wonderful face and is one of my favourite models. I'm just trying to decide whether to go with an existing photo of her or grab her for another shoot. I have one of Meg in mind for this - see my response to Helen below

Mapstew - get your friends and colleagues to all chip in a few Euros to be able to cover the costs of a holiday for me, Maggie and the kids in Ireland, and I'll do photo sessions for you and them in return :)

Ruth - see my response to Mapstew - we're up for a holiday in the US too :)

Jayne - when I'm not tired, panicky and insecure, I'm very excited :)

Eryl - thre's a good chance you'll be in it so you'll have to come along to the opening :)

Helen - I have this one of Meg in mind for the exhibition

Fay - comfort zones have to be moved out from every now and then :)

Pat - I'm all for a placebo. I'm more than happy if I can get my mind to heal itself :)

Mashlip said...

This sounds absolutely brilliant, Kim!

starrlife said...

I can't wait! Very intriguing idea- I love looking at faces when others don't know I'm looking.

Helen said...

Hey Bearded One - oooh, there is definitely an underlying tone of something in that picture of Meg. She almost looks like she knows something about you........

erika said...

I love the idea! I wish I could see your exhibition. Based on the portraits I've seen, I'm confident that you will do a marvelous job. And I agree, Eryl does have a wonderful face. I love all the photos you've taken of her. Good luck and try not to panic :)

emma said...

Definitely, this exhibition is about what you want to get across, not what other people may like.

Is it hard getting people to sit? I always feel incredibly embarrassed when out in the street trying to take photos, or getting people to look at the camera the way I want, as it's often not the way they want.

Pat said...

Following the link to Meg I wonder which you'll choose.
My favourite is the B/W sepia but you know best the message you want to convey. Bet she's excited:)
And you should be severely dealt with for your comment at Eryl's!

Lynne said...

I like this idea. I believe it will make people uncomfortable but yet feel free to *really* look at the person. That's the great thing about photographs and paints ~art in general~ is being able to take you time and see it all. Again good luck.

Oh and the best models are kids, they just love looking into the camera, there is no "fear" of someone judging them after the photo is taken.

Lynn said...

What an interesting idea. I wish I were there to see it. Best of luck!

Falak said...

This idea of yours is off-beat and really interesting!
I wonder how it will feel to have a protrait photo hanging at home that stares back at you....
Best of luck:)

hope said...

I LIKE that idea! And the irony that a non-living, breathing face can make me take a step back to maintain "personal space".

And yet, I'd be the one who'd stand there [yes the requisite polite distance] and stare back. Faces are like stories...I hope you find as many chapters as you need!

Anna said...

this sounds fantastic!
i wish i were there to see it. i love looking at people's faces... so much that they catch me staring! i just delight in all our differences as humans.

let us know the outcome! :)

PurestGreen said...

Recently found your blog. Your work is wonderful and I'm really looking forward to seeing the results of this latest project.

Ché l'écossais said...

Great idea Kim - i wish I could participate (I can look quite windswept and interesting, on a good day).

Here's a website I found of fab photography -

http://theselvedgeyard.wordpress.com/

and here is a fun program that'll take any pic and raterize it into as many A4's as you want, spewing out an easily printable pdf.

http://arje.net/rasterbator

For turning your photos into massive posters, with a bit of sticky tape and a pair of scissors, at low cost.

Annie said...

Hi Kim,

I think I've already put my choices up on the corner in the past, but I've just posted them on my blog if you want to see what I've chosen. The first three are my print choices and the others are for the digital comp which are shown on screen via projector

Katie Roberts said...

Olympia,
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Olympia_(Manet)

she was considered a most radical painting of her time and shocked the salon folk with her bold as brass stare right at you. It wasn't just that she was an empowered sex worker, with a slave, she was the only woman in the gallery who was looking right back at the viewer! Her gaze, that was so self-possessed totally confronted everyone who was more used to a pretty, passive female subject.

Shows you how powerful a stare can be. O_O Good on you Kim.

Library girl said...

Apparently, if you look someone in the eye for longer than 8 seconds, its a sexual "How you doin'?". To be able to stare at a pic without it thinking "Who is this wierdo and why are they looking at me for more than 8 seconds!?" would be a bit of a relief :)

the broken down barman said...

hello stranger. sorry ivenot been around to bother you for a while, but im back and the comments will be coming thick and fast, yet again......

Mary Witzl said...

Will you be putting the photos you're exhibiting on the blog? I'll be looking out for them!

Kim Ayres said...

Mashlip - thank you :)

Starrlife - but what about when they're staring back?

Helen - she has a habit of looking at you like that. It's most unnerving

Erika - you'll just have to try and make it over to Scotland in May then :)

Emma - I've never been able to do street photography - I have to have people's permission before I feel I'm able to click the camera

Pat - I'm probably going to go for the colour one. As for the comment on Eryl's blog, I have no ide where to begin critiquing poetry, but felt I ought to leave some comment...

Lynne - I have a great photo of a mother with her 5 year old hanging over her shoulder. The looks are wonderful :)

Lynn - thank you :)

Falak - you'd probably turn it to face the wall quite often :)

Hope - thank you. Now, if we could just see what you look like other than a green field...

Anna - I dare say there will be more blog posts to come, including how it goes

PurestGreen - thank you :)

Ché - That's a great photography site, thanks for the link :)

Annie - Hope it goes well for you :)

Katie - I really hope when you're in the UK you get a chance to come and see the exhibition (although I do understand your constraints)

Library Girl - 8 seconds eh? Now that might cause a bit of confusion for the views then :)

BD Barman - good to see you're still alive :)

Mary - I daresay they'll crop up somewhere. I don't suppose you're back in the UK before the end of May?

Ron Tipton said...

Tis a shame I don't live closer to you Kim. If I did I would be first in line to have my picture taken. In my 68 years I have yet to have one taken that captures my real personality. As soon as I win the lottery I'm taking a plane over to your beautiful Scotland.

Ron Tipton said...

Here's a thought Kim. Imagine what your portait exhibition would look like if you could take a picture of every one of your followers. Wow. Think of that show. Then again, maybe not.

Kim Ayres said...

If I took 3 a day, it would take nearly a year - if the followers widget is to be believed.

However, I don't believe it as the visitor number stats don't reflect the widget number. I think a lot signed up when I was featured on Blogs of note, but have never come back