The blog of photographer and musician, Kim Ayres

Divided Opinion

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The past few weeks have been filled with phoning people, negotiating times when I can stick my camera in their faces, discussing coffee requirements, drinking coffee, sticking my camera in their faces, selecting editing and processing photos, and sometimes phoning people back to ask if I can re-shoot a particular angle as I can see something that has almost worked in one I took earlier, but not quite.

Also taking up time has been a bit of online debating on a photo site or 2, where not everyone likes the style of portrait photography I’ve been developing lately.

As I mentioned in the post, Staring Back, the idea is all the portraits for the forthcoming exhibition will be staring out of the photo back at the viewer. And in many cases I am using post-production editing techniques to enhance the landscape of the face.

This textural, heightened-reality style seems to divide opinion. Some absolutely love it, while others recoil and think I should have used a softer light and more muted colours to make the images a bit more acceptable.

So with the blog feeling a little neglected, I thought I could give you a little chance to form your own opinion. As a taster, here are 2 of the images I’ve decided will be going into the exhibition. Although there will be a few musicians featured – mainly because half the people I know play something - these are the only 2 where their instrument is shown.

Do click on them for the larger images, to get a better sense of impact.

Michelle


Donald

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40 comments

Pat said...

Wow! Especially the man. I find them arresting portraits but can't really answer your question without seeing them before the 'post-production editing techniques to enhance the landscape of the face.'
Don't shoot me down in flames I think they are superb.

Kim Ayres said...

I'd never shoot you down, Pat - although I'd love to do a photo shoot with you :)

What the original photos looked like is less important. The fact is I could have treated them in a more conventional fashion - smoothed some of the lines out, softened the skin, added a warm glow, etc. But then if I was going to do that, I would also have chosen images where there was a soft smile in the face too. And I can do that - but for this exhibition, it's an in-your-face impact, so to speak that I'm seeking :)

shasha said...

I personally prefer the 'heightened reality' - there seems to be more communication, more said.
Instead of a pretty picture that one says 'wow' to and moves on; here you remain silent a long time, because somehow the impact is deeper.
And that's just my 'own' opinion!

the broken down barman said...

do you think you could capture my inner darkness? that is the question i set to you, pal

Carole said...

Loved the photos. Don't ever want you anywhere near my face with a camera. You are genius...but still there are limits.

Eryl Shields said...

Michelle has the most amazing dark 'limpid pool' eyes, and if her skin was smooth and glowing like a barbie doll you would lose their impact and water down their beauty rather than increase it. So say I, who is bored of faces so perfectly rendered they might as well be made of marble or polycarbonate.

Unless you are aiming for a contract with L'Oreal keep on doing what you do.

savannah said...

knowing so many musicians myself, i LOVE the intensity you've captured1 i can hear the music just by looking at your photos. this is in your face photography at its best, sugar. well done. xoxoxo

Rachel Fox said...

Very strong images - the first one strikes me especially.
x

Someday..... said...

I really liked it - the imperfection and character of one's face. From upper lip hair, pores and wrinkles....it is a human face. The shadows around the eyes, the different colorations of the face - yet the perfection of the iris's - truly windows to the soul. We have watered down, softened, and digitally "enhanced" faces - particularly women - that aging is terrifying. Your male subject will be less "show stopping" to me - because we Americans "tolerate" the rugged Marlboro-man look (read:wrinkles) for males - yet women should never age or be less than perfect when we step out of the house. It is so pervasive, that even I at first thought - "oh" when I saw Michelle - then I thought about it....
Excellent genre and style to selesct - plese post more!

The Pollinatrix said...

Crazy beauty.

Jennifer said...

I wonder what your opinion is of the work and what it is doing for you.

Whitney Lee said...

I agree wholeheartedly with Someday...They just verbalized it much more clearly than I could have.

You have captured what is as opposed to what might have once been (before life etched its mark). If it were a picture of myself I'd probably cringe but these I love.

Kim Ayres said...

Shasha - I think an image that challenges our expectations either excites us or repels us. I'm happy for either reaction, so long as it's not indifference :)

BD Barman - depsite the myths, photography is only part capture - it's also construct. I can take someone's likeness and manipulate lighting, colour and tones to emphasise or play down different aspects, thus create entirely different moods, even from the same image. However, I do like photography that explores darker sides rather than soft focus glamour shots. But good portrait photography is not just about the photographer, it is a collaboration with the sitter. Between us we could create an image that hinted at your inner darkness

Carole - you need a good dose of Portrait Therapy. After 2 or 3 sittings with me you would never be scared or ashamed of your face again

Eryl - I'm so pleased you said that - I need a date from you to come and take yours

Savannah - they're both damn fine players too :)

Rachel - thank you :)

Someday - the word, "imperfection", is so prevalent - and yet if "perfection" is bland and boring, do we have the terms the wrong way round? Character, life, landscape, individuality - so much more interesting and wonderful than a bland barbie-doll plasticity

Pollinatrix - why crazy?

Jennifer - well, clearly I like it, otherwise I wouldn't be posting it on my blog and making an exhibition out of these kinds of images :)

There are many different aspects to it, but one is the desire to challenge the narrow, linear, hierarchical view of beauty. Why should the ultimate judge of beauty be whether it makes a young man think of shagging? How ridiculously narrow and tiny is that view? And yet this is what is held up as the idea by every magazine, billboard and movie. Bollocks to that :)

Whitney - and how sad is it that we are scared of our own faces? That we can appreciate the wonder in another's face, with all it's lines and individuality, and yet feel it's not OK for us to look that way? It's time to Embrace Your Face (said in a game show voice with lots of audience cheering...)

The Pollinatrix said...

Crazy in the same way "crazy quilts" are crazy - asymmetrical, random-like collages of features.

Which is what all of our faces are, and which you have shown beautifully.

Ponita in Real Life said...

Kim, in this age of airbrushed and fake-ified photos everywhere, your 'heightened' faces are startlingly refreshing. The depth of character, the 'soul' that shines forth, is what I see revealed. They LIVE. It leaves me wanting to see all of them. I do hope you will put them on your blog when they are all done, so that those of us who live far away can visit the 'gallery' too.

Thrup'ny bits said...

Very intense looking-into-the-camera eyes. Michelle seams to about to smile but the intensity of the eyes show another story . . . "I don't suffer fools - gladly or otherwise"

Donald looks like he is playing. I wonder, were your sitters actually playing when you photographed them?

Alan

hope said...

My first reaction was, "Wow! REAL people!" And you should take that as the true compliment it is meant to be. I'm tired of "perfect people" in airbrushed photos. I want to see who someone really is...or who they might be at that moment.

I loved the first one! For some reason, I could almost hear her playing! Nice job...I look forward to more.

Charlie said...

I'm with Savannah: I love the in your face perspective. As I've commented before, it's all in the eyes.

starrlife said...

They almost feel like posters in terms of how they jump out at you and the sharpness. I love them but there is hardly a face I don't love to peruse! It's like looking into their soul.

debra said...

These are great photos, Kim. They are as much about you as they are about the folks you photographed.

Jayne Martin said...

I'd been wondering how this was all going. These photos are absolutely breathtaking. Wow! They have such texture. I'm a fan! And I'm certain you will soon have many more, my talented friend.

Mary Witzl said...

I love both of those pictures -- the intensity of their expressions, the strong character in both faces. When I get good on my fiddle I want you to take another photo of me. And by that time, I may even be able to pay for it! :o)

Mimi and Tilly said...

Very powerful. I love the colours in the portraits. The depth and range of colours in each picture is very striking. I came away with a real sense of strength from each person portrayed. I like that. These pictures strike me as a real celebration of the whole person pictured, not just their external beauty. Very beautiful work, Kim.

Gitta said...

These portraits are completely different, you've got a different, unique style. This is what makes them so good! They are worth looking at, even though I don't know the people.

Normal portraits aim to capture your Hollywood beauty and happiness, which isn't real. Your portraits capture several emotions. You can't just say, she/he looks happy, no there's a range of possible emotions and feelings.
I love that they don't have smooth skin, 'cause who has?! And their eyes are absolutely breathtaking!

Sayre said...

While not "attractive" in the conventional sense, these photographs are compelling. You want to look at them, examine them, see EVERYTHING. I confess that "beauty shots" of people are rather boring. I glance and move on. But these.... These I would (and did) LOOK at.

the broken down barman said...

im in then....just say where and when

TheRextras said...

ditto Carole's comment. And since the big pond is between us, not much chance of you being my therapist.

Barbara

Heather L. Truelove said...

i'm admittedly unfamiliar with your non-ppet'd work so i don't have a basis for comparison really. but there is a painterly quality to the portrait samples here which draws me in, followed by a dark edginess which repels me. so overall the effect is fascinating.

Kim Ayres said...

Pollinatrix - aha, thank you - I am enblightened :)

Pointa - at the moment I'm toying with the idea of using one of these online printers like blurb.com to make up a book of the exhibition, which will include all the images, plus images that didn't make it in and a bit of writing about each one. If I do, you can be sure it will be mentioned again on this blog :)

Alan - Michelle had been playing to get into the mood so she didn't just look like a model holding a violin, but she stopped for this photo. Donald was playing, which is why you can see the tension in the muscles and skin

Hope - Isn't it amazing that if we see a portrait photograph and someone hasn't got makeup, is well manicured or in soft focus, it looks odd? It just goes to show how manipulated our ideas are by the advertising and movie industries :)

Charlie - thank you :)

Starrlife - although we look at faces all the time, we rarely get the chance to study them without making the person feel uncomfortable and self conscious - this is one of the great things about portraits :)

Debra - thank you :)

Jayne - once my plans for global domination are tidied up a bit, I will be calling on your help to spread the word... :)

Mary - you don't have to wait until you're good. Not that I'm implying you aren't...

Emma - the next question is, then, if I was to photograph you, would we be able to celebrate your dimples? I would hope so :)

Gitta - it's great to hear you say this. For a long time I thought the only reason people would be interested in portraits was if they were someone they knew, or were suitable exotic. But what I believe now is everyone has a face that is interesting and wonderful if we just look at it in the right way :)

Sayre - what we are presented with on a daily basis is such a narrowly defined idea of beauty. We need to challange this more often and photography is a great way of doing it :)

BD Barman - it's a bit late for this exhibition, but perhaps after things have calmed down a bit

Barabara - the way round this is to find a few others in your area who are all prepared to chip in to fly me and family over for a couple of weeks holiday, and I will do photography sessions in return - including portrait therapies where needed :)

Heather - what a wonderful reaction - everything I could hope for :)

digibirder said...

I think they are amazing portraits. Keep doing what you're doing.

Kim Ayres said...

Thank you :)

Mimi and Tilly said...

Kim, I think I could celebrate my dimples. To be honest, I'm growing to love them. :)

Kim Ayres said...

Then the world is surely a better place :)

Katie Roberts said...

Stunning Kim, really stunning.

Kim Ayres said...

Thanks Katie - are you coming to Scotland while you're in the UK? I could take your photo :)

Katie Roberts said...

Would love you to take my photo Kim! Did you get my email? I was hoping to come up towards your way today/tomorrow, but fighting off a bug and staying near Liverpool seemed like a better idea. Still would really like to get to the lakes District and thats not far from yours huh? (at least compared to Australia)When are you free?

Kim Ayres said...

Hi Katie - If you've sent me anything recently I haven't got it. I'll try sending you something via email and via Facebook

Katie Roberts said...

Done! :) Amazinng to think we pulled it off heh? What an amazing world!
It was great to meet you today Kim, we both had fun, thanks!

Falak said...

Really loved the photo with the violin. I can almost feel like she is challenging me to play as well as she does. Or maybe I connect better with it because I play the violin. But i like the photos just the same.

Kim Ayres said...

Katie - next time I'll buy the coffee and you can find us somewhere to meet in Melbourne :)

Falak - I've always been slightly in awe of people who can play the violin, because you have to practice for such a long time before it sounds any good. I stuck with instruments where I could get something that sounded OK much earlier on

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