Sunday, 2 October 2011

Portrait of a blogger (series)



Nadia of FrouFrouu fills her posts with timeless shades that wouldn't look out of place in a 1940s forest, farm or film - rich purples, muted olives, soft browns and blacks. Her photos resemble newly discovered heirlooms... If only we could all stumble across images of someone so striking in our attic!

One of my favourite places to visit in London is the National Portrait Gallery. Alongside the V&A, it is somewhere that sums up what I love about our capital city – culture. Last time I swung through the revolving doors, it was to see the BP portrait prize with one of my best friends. We went from one painting to another, discussing the techniques and our reactions. There were some portraits we unanimously decided were brilliant and others that one or the other of us hated.
However, I don’t usually visit the NPG for the paintings (brilliant as they are); it’s the photos that entice me. I can think of no other place that has left me so inspired after an exhibition. The work of Hoppe, Ida Kar and Irving Penn all made me feel so stirred that I wanted to pick up my camera then and there. Anyone who thinks photography does not qualify as art should see Penn’s masterful portraits of cultural figures such as Truman Capote and Louise Bourgeois. These are not just snaps, but deeply insightful observations into the characters of his subjects.
As Penn himself said, “Very often what lies behind the facade is rare and more wonderful than the subject knows or dares to know”. The skill lies in that accurate portrayal – not a photo that seeks to glorify the sitter or make them look pretty.
I am sure (in fact I am positive) that this is a talent that takes many years to develop and perfect. There is so much I wish to improve about my own photography, but the only way to move forward and to learn is through practice and pedantic evaluation. That is why I have been setting myself varying portraiture tasks.


Dvora of Fashionistable has long been one of my favourite street style photographers, not only for her perfect use of colour, composition and framing, but also for being interested in drawing out the characters behind the shots. You can see her excellent photos of me at LFW here. She also shoots for Vogue.com. I was honoured that a photographer I admire so much agreed to be photographed.

I am also intrigued by the implicit divide between portraiture and fashion photography. The former is about truth, while the latter is about fantasy and escapism. I think they require separate disciplines – and some current photographers, such as Tim Walker, have mastered both - as has my ‘honorary uncle’ Clive Boursnell. His photos of Bill Gibb’s dresses are on a different continent altogether to his sensitive reflections of the working lives at Covent Garden.

The photos of my own that I occasionally post on my blog are of friends, styled by me and shot in a fanciful location – maybe a stately garden or the hills surrounding where I live. I like to create narratives and make up characters to accompany these images. I rarely feature portraiture as it does not chime so much with ideas of ‘style’ and ‘fashion’. However, here is where that changes.




Lucy of Snippets of Shiny Thoughts makes me think of colour, colour and more colour. Both her personality and clothing choices are immensely vibrant, and she has the prettiest (and most infectious) smile you will ever see. Her great sense of humour extends into her blog too. The second image was more than a little impromptu, due to Lucy accidentally toppling in the Serpentine as our photo-session neared its end.
 
There was a particular NPG exhibition that turned sparks into a bonfire – Ida Kar. She was best known as a ‘bohemian photographer’ who was prolific during the 50s and 60s. The majority of her subjects were artists and writers.
The book released alongside the exhibition is now spread open in front of me. How could I not be stirred by her use of light, of framing? Of her ability to ensnare the characters and work of her subjects?
I was struck by Kar’s specialisation in the creative fields, and wondered if I could start a project that was similar. If I had my way I would be asking the great writers of our generation if I could take their photos – Owen Sheers, Carol Ann Duffy and Andrea Levy to name a few. But for now I wanted something more immediate, more relatable. Thus: bloggers.



Daniela of Couture and Crumpets is an afficionado of clothes, designers and words. Extremely knowledgeable about the world of fashion, she writes brilliantly for her blog and also 1883 magazine, and is always a delight to meet up with.

The term fashion/style blogger is now a canopy that houses beneath it those who specialise in street style, those who post their own outfits, those who write about collections and more.
My aim when I hatched my initial idea was to ask a selection of bloggers I admired if I could take their photo, with a mix of those who worked behind the camera, and those who posed in front. I had met nearly all the bloggers at the previous London Fashion Week in February. Once I had a rough list of willing participants, I packed my camera and bought train tickets. Over the course of the summer holidays I took photos of many bloggers (more in this series to be featured in upcoming posts), and I hope to expand on the number in the coming months too.

38 comments:

Kate said...

I was at the NPG today! It's one of my favourite galleries. You should take a look at some of the free courses for teenagers, some of them are very interesting and a lot of fun.
I always love hearing about bloggers I've never heard of before, I can't wait to take a look at these.

Lx said...

Thank you so much for putting links up to other blogs- me being completely inexperienced at blogging and useless at dressing myself you are helping to broaden my horizons in both aspects!
love x

Gabriella said...

Lovely pictures, now I have a bunch of new blogs to go read! I like this series idea too, very interesting. :)

♥ Check out my giveaway on my blog: Principessa Gabriella

Page said...

gorgeous pictures!!
page

witch hare said...

This sounds like a very interesting project, both creatively and psychologically.
I always enjoy working with my sister on her portrait modules, even if you're dressing people up in fantastical guises the subject's persona is always inherent, just below the surface.

witchhare.blogspot.com/

Closet Fashionista said...

Woah what a great idea :D These photos are amazing.
All these bloggers are so amazing, great choices :)
http://www.closet-fashionista.com/

Caitlin Rose said...

thanks there's some amazing stuff here!

Autumn said...

Lovely pictures! This series sounds very interesting. The photographs in this post are gorgeous!
~
Autumn

Natalie Suarez said...

i LOVE Nadia!! beautiful photos :) xx

natalieoffduty.blogspot.com

the nyanzi report said...

wonderful pictures and words. good to see some familiar faces.

MargieF said...

this sounds like an excellent project. I love to see the people who share the same hobbies as i do. i also wish i had the time to visit galleries, i think i miss out on so much
margief
x
www.margieheartsclothes.blogspot.com

sacramento said...

So nice to meet all these new bloggers.
I do follow Fashionistable, but it feels good to know the person behind the camera.
Have a great week, Rosalind.
XXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

The life after said...

Love this serie! It's nice to know new bloggers.

http://missbobino.blogspot.com

Vix said...

What a lovely idea, Ros. There's some bloggers here I've not yet met. x

Chloe said...

Teeheehee! Aah thanks so much Roz! How amusing! I really like the shot of the sweets - clever idea wasn't it! Hahaha, I don't think I'll ever forget the lake moment, how hilarious! Thank you soo much for capturing it for all to have a good giggle!
xxx

Emma said...

nice blog dudette .. wanna follow each other via Google & blogroll??

My Face Hunter

Fashion, Art and other fancies said...

Ah, this is such a joy and a plesure to savour, to taste. I LOVE Dvora!
So enjoyed sharing laughter with her in Paris - such a warm, open, loving and kind human being. I adore her spirit. xx

Lydia said...

How amazing is Lucy! She looks so fun. Great series idea. Also I love that your photos are un-edited!

Jessica said...

I love Daniellea's outfit!! Great idea, love the post!

http://chicgeekblogger.blogspot.com/

Please take a minute to look at my trunkshow;

http://iouproject.com/tsh/jessica-karen/

Maria said...

I can't wait to see more of these posts, photos can be so soulful, I admire anyone who can capture the essence of someone's personality through a lens!

Maria xxx

Teddi said...

Roz, i would say you accomplished your aim! you have a very lovely blog. i like your portraiture vs. fashion blogging comparison, description. your photographs are exquisitely done! you captured personality with a thread of escapism, combined. :)
http://honeybeelane.blogspot.com/

Not Just A Pretty Dress said...

I love portraits and you are absolutely right about the magic of the pictures. I'll keep following your project (and thank you for showing me Dvora! I'm a big admirer of her work...). It's so interesting to try to capture the personality with an image...

Thank you so much for your comment! So happy you liked my Paris' post...

http://notjustaprettydress.blogspot.com/

Izzy/Bella said...

Hi Rosalind,
This was a truly lovely post. I'll check out all the other bloggers you interviewed. And good luck with your photography! I agree that it's an art-- capturing the essence of a person isn't something that anyone can do. First you have to find the right tool for your talent-- a camera, a brush, a pen-- and then you have to work to learn to use it. I LOVED your observation that fashion and art photography are inherently different disciplines. I can't believe how young yet perceptive you are. This was a stunning realization for me when I was thinking of going to art school for illustration (I write kid's books and poetry and I thought about learning to illustrate them myself like Blake or Beatrix Potter). I had to expand my portfolio really quickly, and I didn't have time to find models to draw.I already had a lot of copies of Mucha's figure drawings that I'd made, so I was looking through fashion magazines to try to create more original images using the models there...And I couldn't find a single "beautiful" image. That's what stunned me. With the thought of a Mucha composition fresh in my mind and the principles of great art invoked in my judgments, I saw the flimsiness of the emotion captured by fashion photography-- compared to Mucha or Gauguin or Bonnard the pictures seemed cheap and kind of silly. Like seeing the little old man behind the Great Oz machine suddenly revealed. From that moment on I was completely and totally cured forever of any intimidation I'd felt regarding the fashion world. I saw it as you put it as "mere fantasy and escapism." Anyway enough about me. I just wanted to say I am so utterly impressed with your maturity and perspicacity (to use a ten dollar word ;)).
And so happy again for the recommendations. Something to add to my morning read over coffee.
All the best,
Izzy
www.misadventuresofme.com

Michelle of The Feather Den said...

Such incredibly photography! Looks like I have a lot to discover tomorrow after work.

x Michelle | thefeatherden.net

adrielleroyale said...

What a beautiful and wonderful tribute to each one!! You are such a generous soul and it seems to show in the friends you keep :)

bollykecks said...

Love the photos of Lucy, so colourful and fun <33

Fashionistable said...

My dearest Rosalind, This is a brilliant first step into the world of portraiture. I am humbled by your beautiful words about me. You knew my reluctance about being in front of the camera. I now see that in your capable hands I had nothing to fear. I love the observation of the 2 blonde heads together. Where were she come from? Serendipity at play here.
The quite confidence of Nadia and Daniela are a great portrayal of their inner strength. And you have certainly caught Lucy's joyfulness and energy perfectly. Looking forward to seeing the rest in the series. Love Dvora Xxxx

Style Sud-Est said...

Hello Roz, thanks for leaving a comment, my daughter and I are big, big fans of yours - seen you often out there- you simply a true beauty and you have an amazing sens of style -
Yes i am 51 - 52 in feb! and yes people do not believe that i am that age - daughter and I look more like sisters :)

Ariane xxxxxx

Stephanie Hoff Clayton said...

thank you for introducing these wonderful bloggers you've met. i think you've done a marvelous job of achieving your aim!
pertaining to your comment about the ann demeulemeester sandal boots: i had them dyed professionally. the cobbler said she'd used a different dye on the heel. she does excellent work!

Isi, Wake up & smell the azahar said...

Interesting idea, it's nice to see these bloggers shooted by you.

Shervin Nassi said...

Have i told you lately that we LOVE YOU.

Me and my girlfriend, Charlotte Cutler (curlcrave) die for your blog!

Is it you who took these amazing photos???

keep in touch!

www.shervinsworld.com

James + Grace said...

We love your blog! Keep it going and check ours out :)

xo

http://www.jamesgracestyle.com/
http://www.bloglovin.com/en/blog/3022233/james-grace

Pearl Westwood said...

These are really beautiful, I just adore Dvora it was great to finally meet her too at LFW x

It-Blogirls said...

wonderful photos ! and wonderful post ! thanks a lot for your comment dear !!

The Foolish Aesthete said...

This is a wonderful collection of photos of some bloggers I love (and it is terrific to see them on the other side of the lens!) and others I would love to visit.

Your time at the NPG is enviable. I wish I could see the same exhibit. I find that the best way to challenge myself in photography is to inspire myself with great images from legendary photographers and film makers, much like what you were doing. I've so far to go!!

Can't wait to see the rest of your photographs from this series. Of course, I always enjoy the images of you so beautifully styled within the context of some fanciful narrative you've created! xxx

styleeast said...

Because of my stupid stupid blog comment problems, this is the first chance i've had to say how much I love these shots. The atmosphere of each set is so unique to its subject, I love how you've composed them to reflect the personalities of each blogger. They all look gorgeous! Can't wait to see more! xx

CALAMITY JANE said...

omg! Rosalind the pictures look amazing!

Old Cow said...

Please excuse my absence, I have been away and am glad to be back once more!

AAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHH its Dvora! She look fabulous!