Saturday, October 08, 2011

Photography Fun

During my stint as Artist in Residence for the Wigtown Book Festival, I found myself reflecting on the fact it often feels I’m part photographer, part psychotherapist.

When upward of 90% of people use the opening line, “I hate having my photo taken…” the majority of my time is spent not using the camera, but reassuring, explaining and trying to build a sense of connection and trust with the person in front of me.

So when I encounter a rare individual who is perfectly comfortable in front of the lens right from the start, it’s a pure delight – especially when they are then up for playing.

One such person I discovered during the festival was Peggy.

When I photographed her for the wall of The Hut I was immediately struck by her appearance. With short dark hair, and large rimmed glasses she had an almost iconic look, and when I converted the image to black and white, I was reminded of a kind of 1950s Beatnik style.



Of course one of the things about having such a striking outward style, is people will fix on it as the key identifying trait. So if Peggy was to remove her glasses and change her hairstyle, the chances are she could walk right past most people who know her and they wouldn’t even realise it was her.

With my love of faces, I found myself wanting to photograph her without her glasses. She was up for the idea, but we didn’t then get the chance until the very last evening of the Festival. By then it was dark and the only available light was on the stairs, and that wasn’t particularly great. However, black and white gives more options under these circumstances, so I felt it was still worth going for.

What’s great about Peggy from my point of view is she instantly understood photography is all about storytelling. So no need to be shy in front of the camera – rather it was a chance to play. She fished out some bright red lipstick and between us we came up with the idea of having it smeared, but with an unapologetic, even aggressive expression.

Within a few short minutes we’d created another almost iconic image.



Such fun!

Peggy is also the Programme Director of the West Port Book Festival in Edinburgh, which this year is happening from the 13th to 16th of October.

Visit www.westportbookfestival.org for more information, and if you go along and bump into Peggy, do say hello to her from me.

8 comments:

hope said...

I was amazed at the difference without the glasses...even more so that I actually LIKED the glasses better. :)

You have a good eye, no doubt about it.

Theanne and Baron said...

i'm feeling the emotion, the attitude in both photos...you and Peggy did an excellent job. I particularly like the b&w with the smeared red lipstick, her face says it all..."so what" or "what smeared lipstick"

Pat said...

A perfect 'You talking to me?' picture.
Great to have someone enter into the spirit.
As one who wears the lightest possible specs in deference to my puny nose I wonder how heavy those are. She looks great - with or without.

TalesNTypos said...

Aww. :-)

Brian said...

Here's a shout out to my long lost friend. Cheers to you and your family.

Suldog said...

I've always found it interesting that so many people profess to be embarrassed in front of a camera. I love having my photo taken. Now, I can't say I'm always pleased by how I look, but I am often am. Some folks (*cough* MY WIFE *cough*) never are.

Kamille Elahi said...

I actually love having my photo taken, but when I've not got my glasses on. It's strange how glasses can change your appearance so much.

I love the second picture but those glasses rock so I'm a bit torn between the two!

Kim Ayres said...

Hope - it always amazes me just how much glasses can change a person's appearance.

Theanne & Baron - I love creating photos of people showing attitude - so much more fun than the smile-for-the-camera look :)

Pat - I'd never thought about that. I wear reading glasses sometimes, but they are relatively lightweight. Can't imagine wearing heavy ones.

Adila - :)

Brian - thank you! Now would you please help me overcome my embarrassment at not knowing which Brian you are, and give me a pointer or 2 (from Wales, from Devon, from Alloa, or other...)

Suldog - one of the big reasons people don't like themselves in photos is they look the wrong way round. We're used to seeing our reflections in mirrors, so when we see ourselves with the hair parted on the other side, the wrong eyebrow higher than the other or the mole on the other side of the face, then it looks wrong and makes us feel uncomfortable. This is why so many people think everyone looks OK except themselves in photos.

Kamille - When taking photos of people with glasses, quite often they will ask whether they should leave them on or take them off for the shoot. My answer is nearly always the same - do you feel like you with or without them? For example, I only wear glasses for reading, so to me I think of them purely as an accessory. But I have a friend who's worn glasses since she was a kid and feels naked without them :)