The blog of photographer Kim Ayres

Finding Gems - and Episode 26 of Understanding Photography with Kim Ayres

Wigtown Book Festival – one of Scotland's largest literary events – is taking place online this year. 

Dozens of interviews with authors, as well as music, workshops, and all sorts of extras are available, free of charge, to anyone in the world who visits the site until Sunday 4th October.

In last night's podcast I talked about my first involvement with the Festival back in 2011, when I was “Artist in Residence”.

Across the 10 days I took 173 moody black and white photos of authors, visitors and locals, which I printed up and covered the walls of a studio space I was given.

There is the world of difference between taking a stand-alone portrait, and creating a large, themed collection of scores of faces.

Most of the time, when I am asked to do a portrait for someone, it is for business or promotional purposes – their website or an avatar on a social media site or a press release. And usually there is the need for them to look warm, friendly and approachable, so a smile of some kind is required.

But when you can escape the need for a smile, the human face is capable of projecting so many more emotions – from the big to the subtle to the complex. Now there is space to explore so much more. As such, the “no smiles allowed” aspect of the project was a key part of the whole process.

As I looked back over the photos, taken when I was considerably less knowledgeable about photography, there are of course many that I just wouldn't do that way now.

However, what is rather lovely is to rediscover some which I feel still stand up – indeed I would be delighted if I took today.

Here are a handful of my favourites

I think my younger, less skilled, less experienced self was definitely on to something, even if he wasn't always entirely sure what it was...


0.00 - What's coming up
0:06 - Introduction to Wigtown Book Festival Online
06:05 - Being an Artist in Residence at Wigtown Book Festival 39:15 - Critique of images submitted to the Facebook Group, "Understanding Photography with Kim Ayres"
1:11:00 - Adjusting shutter speed and aperture to capture bright light
1:28:00 - Coming up next week

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Keith said...

I really, really like these portraits Kim. For me, they are in that fertile place between the smiling publicity shot and the overly mean and moody portrayal one sees quite often. I think it's the expressions in the eyes which you captured so well. The display of all of them must have been something to see.

Kim Ayres said...

Keith - thank you!
Because everyone was staring straight into the lens, it meant that when you came into the room, it was like all of them were staring directly at you - no matter what direction you looked it. While most people found it quite fascinating, there were some who were totally freaked out by it and couldn't leave fast enough!

jonathan said...

I love those, Kim. Your younger self was certainly on to something.. and I think that 'no smiles allowed' might have just been part of it. I know that I am a hopeless subject for photography- as soon as I feel I 'have to' smile for the camera I completely forget how to do such a natural thing as smiling! By contrast, whatever you have done there has freed up your subjects to reveal themselves (or just enough about themselves as they want to, leaving us curious/filling in the gaps). Really captivating stuff I think!

Kim Ayres said...

Jonathan - as soon as the camera is pointing at us, we become afraid we're going to look ridiculous - which then makes us nervous - and any smiles, warmth or naturalness disappears, leaving us looking like a rabbit in the headlights.
What I often do with clients is get them to act and pretend they are someone else for a moment. That way it takes the focus off themselves and they can start to play. The results are always far more interesting :)

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