1.2 Background as context

Exercise 1.2 Background as context

Brief: Study Sander’s portraits in very close detail, making notes as you go.

Brief: Look at how his subjects are positioned in relation to each other or their environment. Are they facing the camera or looking away? What, if any, props does Sander use? Do these props seem relevant or are they strange? What physical stance does the subject adopt?

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Brief: Look at how his subjects are positioned in relation to each other or their environment. Are they facing the camera or looking away? What, if any, props does Sander use? Do these props seem relevant or are they strange? What physical stance does the subject adopt?

Source of images are from MOMA at http://www.moma.org/collection/artists/5145?=undefined&page=1

 

The most striking thing for me about his portraits is that the subject is looking directly at you – the gaze is confrontational. They are not caught unawares but letting you know that they are themselves. He uses props a great deal including hats, walking sticks, musical instruments and the dress of the people. Normally there is also a background that helps to locate the person. For example the ‘Unemployed Sailor’ is on a quay with water and a bridge in the background, the ‘Young Farmers on Sunday’ proudly stand in front of their country home and ‘Rural brothers and Sister’ are on a path with their musical instruments with a home visible in the background. Many of these portraits are ‘formal’ in appearance probably because of dress and props but two in my series stand out that are not; ‘The Sage’ and ‘Unemployed Sailor.’ Their ‘informality’ is in the ‘Sailor’ a function of dress and composition whereas the ‘Sage’ image seems more what he might have looked like at the time; wrinkly with a tatty jumper.

Brief: Make a portrait of someone you know

This is a portrait of my wife. The background was chosen at a museum of 20th Century design in the Netherlands. There is limited depth of field, which is a limitation of the camera that I was using, and I really wanted everything to be sharp with the background ‘enveloping’ her rather than receding away.

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Janet, June 2015, Rotterdam

Brief: Has this been successful?

I think so. My wife is an extremely able technical woman who I defer to in all matters electronic – she used to be an anaesthetist. Her other interests are gardening, sewing, knitting and watercolour painting and people are often surprised by her technical ability. For example, we were camping recently and a fellow camper asked me if I could solve the problems with his camper electrics; my wife had it sorted in 15 minutes and enjoyed doing it! Family members would recognise the context of this image but others might not. There is a synergy of the ‘Bauhaus’ background and the woman.

There are other signs and signifiers in the image but I left these are they were at the time, and you will have your own reading of them.