Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Loose ends (iii): Just sitting

Another loose end from my list is that on reviewing this blog I found I hadn’t completed Exercise 8:Varying Pose. Continuing with the rather literal and un-creative self-portrait theme I adopted some 18 months ago feels a little like a tick box exercise at this stage, so I felt it would be more instructive to consider some photos I took during the course of this module in the light of my current understanding of the exercise.

I’m going to start with this pair of photos – taken 20 seconds apart – in York during the early stages of the module.

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I especially like this pair because they show that relatively small changes in a pose can reveal quite different things. In the first the woman is clearly talking. From the upright posture of her head and the position of her arm it seems likely that she is being quite animated – yet by the simple expedient of leaning slightly forward, moving her arm to her neck and tilting her head to one side she becomes an attentive listener in the second shot (about 20 secs later). This variation in interpretation is achieved without any recourse to her eyes – which remain hidden in both – and is a good example of the power of pose to affect our reaction to a portrait.

This next shot is another example of the importance of head position in interpreting a sitting pose. This pianist, with his arms forward on his instrument and his head tilted to look at the keys is very clearly concentrating on his music and appears oblivious to the little girl watching at the end of his piano. A more raised head position would have suggested a greater awareness of his surroundings, perhaps even suggesting that he was not actually playing at the time of the shot – unlike in this version.


This final shot is of a group of people sitting listening to a brass band concert and I include it here for the variety of seated poses and their impact on our view of the individuals pictured.


The two gentlemen in the centre are sitting in very formal poses, and seem to be taking listening quite seriously – particularly the one on the left who appears to be craning his neck slightly. By contrast the three people on the left hand seat are very clearly relaxed as indicated by the more slouched position and their leg positions as well – indeed the only way the gent on the far left could appear more relaxed would be by putting his hands behind his head. In another take on a simple sitting position the girl on the right is quite upright, but the twist in her body suggests that she is really paying attention to the child in the buggy rather than the band. So, in one shot, in which the subjects are all in essentially the same pose, the slight nuances in limb and body position provide a whole range of clues about activity and intent which we are free to interpret on the basis of our experience.

It is only a short step from here to deliberately using this sort of variation to allow interpretations of a more formal portrait sitting.

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