I want to focus my study around portraiture that acts as a homage to farmers. Two photographers that came to mind were Annie Leibovitz and Richard Avedon, possibly two of the most acclaimed portraiture photographers and the two most appropriate for my study. More specifically, I’m looking into the posses and subjects that Avedon uses and the outside flash portraits Leibovitz does.
Avedon’s ‘real intention’ was to portray people instead of simply take the portrait. He photographs his subjects against a white backdrop so that the persona takes it all; which is really interesting but it won’t work as part of my homage because I’m looking into getting the farm in the background as well, but the idea of drawing the attention to the persona is strong, and the flash in the portrait will work similarly. It also says in the book that his objective was to ‘place the powerless where the powerful we usually depicted’, and he did use subjects from the American West who were farm workers, so it does relate, but my project isn’t giving them more power because I’m photographing them in their comfort zone, so the power is in the way the portrait is seen and the flash will help me. However, his portraits from the American West series are inspirational in their look. Because Avedon is focusing on the way he portrays the person first they have a more intense feel to them, and they seem like a more accurate portrayal. I really want to incorporate Avedon’s fashion style into my portraiture photography.
The main interest in Leibovitz’s work was the outside flash that draws attention to the subject a lot more. I prefer the fashion look of Avedon’s work because it relates more to my project, but I like the environmental portrait style, placing the subjects in their comfort. The photographs that stood out for me were the images of O.J Simpson, Robert Redford and Timothy Hutton taken for Rolling Stone because they portray the people and they are incredibly considered environmental portraits. They all have a really soft feel to them, which resonates the comfort that she’s put her subjects under.
Overall, researching both these photographers has got me to consider a lot more when taking a portrait. Avedon has made me consider a lot more about the fashion side, with the way he poses his subjects and composes them. Leibovitz has inspired me to think about the composition and the way the photograph is taken in the persons environment, this way I can hopefully portray them more effectively and consider the environment a lot more when photographing.
– ‘Annie Leibovitz – Photographs’ (1983) – Introduction by Tom Wolfe
– ‘Richard Avedon – Photographs 1946-2004 – Preface by Poul Erik Tojner