My environmental portraits
In order to explore this area further I took up the challenge to visit local businesses and ask if I could take photos of them in their working environment. I decided to choose professions where I felt the locality would reflect the person in the image and on each occasion I obtained permission and promised to email a copy of the image if they desired.
Below are the contact sheet images.
I have highlighted in green the image I chose. Where there are two images I used both to make a single composite image.
I took this at my local hairdressers, I wanted to include the tools of the trade rather than include other people getting haircuts as this would have over complicated the image and would have required multiple permissions and disturbing customers. The hairdresser himself was very reluctant to get his picture taken so I opted for a shallow depth of field so it would blur him out a little and I used the scissors in the foreground as my point of focus.
Once in Photoshop I decided to change any part of the image that was reflected into black and white, this is because I wanted to make the scissors stand out more and help draw the viewers attention.
My next place to visit was my local jewellery store. Crown Jewellers is a family business which I thought was quite unique because the owner is quite young but the store was very empty with only a few display cabinets. I used this angle for two reasons, firstly it encompassed the majority of the shops display and this helped to place the subject in the middle of his environment and secondly I wanted to use the row of large cabinets on the left to lead the viewer into the image. I also liked the advertising poster on the end which balances the image and returns the viewer back to the subject. Overall I would have liked there to be a lot more jewellery on display and would have preferred the owner to have been wearing a suit and there was very little to link the person to their job. If I was going to take an image like this again I may ask them to be working on a machine or surround them with objects, similar to Arnold Newman’s image of Jackson Pollock.
When I went to my local tailors/dressmakers shop I was hoping for something full of clothes, textures and tailoring patterns. However the shop was devoid of everything accept a couple of sewing machines and a dress hanging up. My choice of angles was quite limited I wanted one like Cecil BEatons Image on the right but I went with the above as the sewing machine at the front could at least lead the viewer into the picture. The only other addition to the image was that I asked the subject to work on something so at least they were sewing. Afterwards I noticed similarities to Lee Friedlanders image on the left as the both held their hands in a similar position.
In terms of an environmental image it really struggles, there was just not enough environment to work with but I have included it here as an example where the plan did not quite work out.
The next image was quite unplanned. I only went into Costa Coffee for a drink and decided to ask if they minded me taking a picture of them while they made it. The layout of the store allowed me to take the photo using a side view of the coffee machine and I wanted to get a shallow depth of field so I could isolate the subject from the busy background. I had in my mind the type of shot I was after and I waited for the shot where all the steam pours out of the machine. I also included all the used coffee cups at the front the machine. The angle and the concentration of the person using the machine reminded me of Lee Friedlanders image (above). Both have been taken side on and both are hard at work.
I felt that this image works because it shows the person in the act of doing their job, I could have used a wider angle but it would have lost the detail in the action that was happening at the machine. I also like the way the lighting in this image bounces back off the machine to illuminate the person using it.
When I went into the local butchers I had in my mind to take a shot of one of the staff cutting up a fresh carcass. However I was unwilling to ask for too much and settled for this angle. I used the counter as a leading line and included all the various meats that are on display. I took a few images but I chose this one because the senior butcher came through from the back at took a similar stance to my main subject, like the master checking on his apprentice. I had already decided on a larger depth of field so I new that he would have also been in focus.
My local opticians was one of the places that was looking forward to visiting as I new the shop was full of glasses. One of the younger assistants was happy to pose for me so I took him surrounded by his product. I included the rack of glasses in the foreground to give the image depth but my point of focus was the main subject. I wanted a shallower depth of field but due to the wide angle I needed and the distance I was from the subject this had to be achieved later in Photoshop. I liked the subject and I thought that due to him wearing glasses he suited his environment well. One final area that I nearly missed was in the reflection from the mirror is an advert and I thought it looked like a face watching the proceedings.
My final place to visit was almost an afterthought but once I walked in I new that this would make a good image. The shop is quite small and it is littered with the products that they sell. they are on stands, walls, floors and ceilings so it was quite difficult to find a place that I could stand. I opted for the above angle as I thought it placed the subject right in the centre of their world. I included the lights in the foreground hanging from the roof to add depth and to help frame and with the lamps at the side it helps to frame the subject inside her products. Due to the nature of the shop there was light coming from every direction which confused the camera so I used a spot meter from the subject and then all I lowered the brightness of some of the lights in Photoshop.