Having decided I wanted to base my portrait on The Lady with a Squirrel and a Starling By Hans Holbein the Younger, I set about researching other photographers’ modern interpretations of classical portrait paintings.
Kerstens used a plastic bag in the style of a 17th century cap. Titled ‘Bag’, this image won second prize in the 2007 Taylor Wessing Photographic portrait Prize.
Whilst on a visit to New York, he observed the amount of plastic bags given away by shops. He took a humourous stance to highlight the environmental issues surrounded by the use of plastics bags.
His daughter, Paula, is the focus of this project which documents her growing up and captures something of the fleeting moments that fade through childhood. He illuminates her with the characteristic ‘Dutch’ light, from the windows of his atelier in Amsterdam. By using modern objects to create traditional portraits reminiscent of Johnannes Vermeer and Early Netherlandish paintings, he adds a contemporary twist.
Through these images, Kerstens creates a conceptual and humourous dialog between the past and present. His daughter looks directly into the lens, creating an instant engagement with the viewer.
The first generation of Early Netherlandish artists were realist painters who paid close attention to the accurate detail of objects, reflections, light and shadows. In their portraits, the subjects appear more human with a greater complexity of emotions than previous seen.
They introduced three-dimensional perspectives, allowing the viewer to engage with the people, surroundings and objects in finer detail.
A lesser known photographer from Argentina, Ressia has been featured in several fashion magazines. Her work features “anachronisms and juxtapositions that allow to draw a timeline from which to explore human evolution and their behaviour as individuals and as a collective”.
Inspired by the Great Masters Work and photographers like Diane Arbus and Robert Frank. For professional assignments she uses a DSLR and simple setups with up to 3 lights, using a combination of flashlights with continuous lighting.
She describes her photography as “having a stong sociological content with a pictorial aesthetic”. Some of her work will be on display at the upcoming Sony World Photography Organisation Award.
In Sherman’s History Series she recreates portrait images based on Renaissance paintings by artists such as Caravaggio and Giovanni Battista. There is an element of grotesque to these images, which can make the viewer feel uncomfortable.
After researching the work of other photographers, I wanted to use props to create a contemporary image of a classic portrait. Initially, I used my tablet and a plastic bag to comment on our reliance on technology and consumerism, whilst considering the impact on our environment.
During the shoot, I changed the model and the props. I was keen to use the plastic bag as it retained the humour and a message regarding the problem with plastic. The tablet was replaced with a tulip which gave a nod to the work of the Dutch Masters.
As we had two different shoots happening at the same time in a relatively small studio, there were times when the trigger would set the lights off on the other set and vice versa. I started with one light to the right side of the models face, the added another on the left to light up both sides of the face and then another directed towards the backdrop.
Due to the confined space, I had to stay vigilant with regards to health & safety. The wiring was taped down and anyone present was made aware of other potential trip hazards. As the heat of the lamps increased, extra care was taken whilst handing the light heads.
After presenting the images to class for feedback, the tulip image below was selected due to the engagement of the subject’s eyes with the lens, much like the engagement of Kerstens daughter.
Using Lightroom, I adjusted the white balance and increased the clarity and contrast. This gave the skin tone a warmer tint. For the first time, I successfully managed to smooth the skin using the adjustment tools. Focusing on the facial lines to the sides of the mouth and under the eyes.
Following post production, I chose to print the image onto Hahnemuhle Photo Rag due to the papers characteristics closely resembling those of an artists canvas. The thick but smooth paper absorbs the colour well, without compromising sharpness.
When the print arrived, I was very happy with the paper which had a lovely textural feel and painterly quality. Although, if I was to reprint the image, I would tone down the warm tint slightly as the skin appeared a little too pinky/orange.