Sunday, 13 March 2011

What is Visual Communication?

The are of practice I have chosen to base this part of my work on is portrait photography.

The Wikipedia entry on photographic portraits states that "The objective is to display the likeness, personality, and even the mood of the subject. Like other types of portraiture, the focus of the photograph is the person's face, although the entire body and the background may be included. A portrait is generally not a snapshot, but a composed image of a person in a still position. A portrait often shows a person looking directly at the camera."

However it can be said that all of these paradigms are subject to change and portraits are essentially a visual representation of a person, all of the aforementioned criteria may be void depending on the characteristics of the given person and the persona of them that is being portrayed.

This bring me to a William James quote - "Whenever two people meet, there are really six people present. There is each man as he sees himself, each man as the other person sees him, and each man as he really is."

I think this train of thought can be applied to photography, resulting in the person having their picture taken having three separate images - how they actually look, how they think they look and the way the photographer makes them look.

Key practitioners in this area that I enjoy the work of include Ryan Mcginley, Lina Scheynius, Terry Richardson, etc.

(Ryan Mcginley) This is an example of portrait photography that I like. First of all there is the overall composition and colour of the picture, the soft colour tones are fairly bleak and somehow match the facial expression of the model. They are also not centred, as seen often in portraits, and in an unassuming position implying that the photo was taken of them in this state as opposed to them actively preparing for this picture. The background is interesting but not offensive and serves exactly as a background as opposed to drawing attention away from the focus of the picture. Furthermore the light casting shadows on the model is quite soft and seems natural as opposed to harsh and artificial.

(Murakami Photography) This is an example of portrait photography that I hate. Initially the subject matter itself is very constructed and the notion of wearing a wedding dress in a forest is clearly fabricated. The model's arms and body seem to be in uncompromising positions again making their stance seem forced and the whole thing unnatural. The exaggerated soft focus of the surrounding areas serves to redirect all attention to the model but instead just leaves them the centre of an an awkward blurry cloud. Finally the colours are very harsh, but not natural, and compiled with the photographer's "logo" in the corner make the whole image seem very artificial and uninteresting.

I'm not really sure how these photographs relate to my personality or world view however I am quite interested in photography and feel the examples given show this, although I cannot compare myself to either photographer I think it is abundantly clear whose work I prefer.

Critical Analysis
McGinley's work shows the documentation of a person as they were as opposed to the work of Murakami Photography that shows only a pretense and is essentially pointless. McGinley's work frequents galleries, is published in books and magazines and is seen as art, whereas Murakami's was likely only seen by the model who's wedding it was, her family and friends and anyone looking at Mrakami's portfolio. The point I am making is not about the target audience but that both works are a form of documentation, although the reason behind them is different. However it seems redundant to have wedding photos in which you don't appear to be enjoying your own wedding.

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