Assignment 1 – Environmental Portraits, ‘My Other-half’

Assignment 1 – My Other-half

“Identity comes from both the observer and the observed.” – Shaun Mullins.

In this project, I wanted to create environmental portraits that in some way express the different sub-identities that make up the overall character of a person.  I believe that our identity / character is not defined by one thing, we are all made individuals because we have many identities that make up a whole, we may know acquaintances by only one or two of their sub-identities or ‘hats’ e.g. Shaun the photographer, Shaun the Sales Manager. But we all have many other ‘hats’ and we may even appear to look different with each one.

In order to express this idea in my photographs I asked my wife, Sarah (the ‘other’) to be my model and as these are the different sub-identities that I see of her, I felt that I (self) must also be present in the picture as observer.  This touches on another aspect of portraiture that interests me, that of the relationship between the observer and the observed, identity is meaningless without the interaction of both the observer and the observed.  I would go one step further that the complete identity of a person has an Event Horizon, (Smolin, 2000, p.72) below which an observer cannot see; but can only guess.

My method was to slowdown the photography process by using a camera mounted on a tripod and with carefully chosen composition and use of controlled lighting.  This required about an hour to an hour and a half for setting up each composition.  I used a Nikon DSLR with a full sized 35mm sensor, a 24-120 f/4 zoom lens, I kept the focal length as short as possible for both reasons of composition and for the benefit of a wider depth-of-field. I used separate flash lights operated by PocketWizards with various light modifiers such as umbrellas, etc. White balance was controlled manually with a large grey card.  I used a separate incident light meter to measure for exposure and to obtain optimum aperture, I manually focused for hyper-focus and I used a remote control to take the photo.  My model was then directed, and in most shots I had her act out the scene that she was posing for, to achieve a good sense of movement.

My intention was to create a series of photographs that through my choice of locations would help to link them all together. Each photograph is a constructed scene to create a snap-shot view for each one of Sarah’s identities and located in the environments that I know them to dwell.  My ideas came from Larry Sultan’s series of photographs of his parents in, Pictures From Home (1992), Tina Barney’s, Theatre of Manners (1997) and Cindy Sherman’s, Untitled Film Stills (1977). Sultan and Barney have used family members as their subjects and used their homes and locations connected with their homes and lifestyle to maintain a continuity to their collection of photographs. Realising this important ingredient, I have followed their example by keeping the setting at home but being careful to choose different locations and viewpoints.  Sherman, has constructed her photographs to look like scenes from a movie and looking at Sultan and Barney’s work I have also noted their attention to the mise-en-scene; so I have tried to follow their example by removing items for less clutter (where appropriate) and moving items around for better balance and to possibly add extra readable layers to the picture.

My Other-half

Sarah the soap maker, My Other-half, (2020) Shaun Mullins.

Sarah the dancer, My Other-half, (2020) Shaun Mullins.

Sarah the Occupational Therapist, My Other-half, (2020) Shaun Mullins.

Sarah the ranter, My Other-half, (2020) Shaun Mullins.

Sarah thy name is Vanity!, My Other-half, (2020) Shaun Mullins.

Sarah-Imelda Marcos!, My Other-half, (2020) Shaun Mullins.

Sarah and beyond or ‘Sarah’s Event Horizon’, My Other-half, (2020) Shaun Mullins.

Published by shauncn512659

Hi, I am an OCA student studying for an Art degree in Photography , my student number is 512659. My e-mail is: shaun512659@oca.ac.uk

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