Wednesday, 7 January 2015

The Studio Portrait Research - Edward S Curtis

Towards my research into portraiture I've looked at a photographer named Edward Sheriff Curtis. Although Curtis didn't always capture photographs in the studio, I do find that I like how the portraiture has been captured with the lighting and angles. During my research into this photographers work I stumbled across a blog called Edward S. Curtis: The First Americans. The blog talks a little bit about Native American Nations and when Curtis began his documentation of the North American Indian people in 1900. I do like this photographers work, and the sepia tone works well. To be critical about Curtis' work, it would have to be the framing. I just feeling the framing could have worked better with a closed composition, instead of having parts of the subject running out of the frame. But I do get why Curtis had done this, I think it was to fill up the frame with only the sitter, not showing too much background. The detail in the sitters faces gives off personality, signifying what type of person they are. Though the man in the photograph below may look aggressive, I also think that he was hard working and looked out for his people.


I don't usually write about the photographers background, but I found out some useful information about Edward S Curtis that links into why he captured the people he did. He wasn't just a photographer, but also an ethnologist born in 1868 - 1952. Curtis was a North American Indian, this lead his photography work to be with Indians at Seattle waterfront and has taken portrait photographs of Chief Seattle's daughter and princess Angeline. Curtis has used his photography to try and create a lasting art out of a 'salvage ethnology'.

The photographer captures the personality in the shot by taking a portrait of the sitter doing a natural pose. The photographer does capture the sitters personality, in doing so has also created their own interpretation of the sitter.

The photographer achieved their the outcome by taking photographs of different people from different generations. Edward has taken photographs in a monochrome sepia colour to add to the effect.

I was attracted to this type of work because of the sepia colour, also the way the photographer has managed to capture portrait photographs, of different generations of people.

The photographs captured by Curtis, made me feel that the photographer has an emotional attachment to the sitters in the photographs. He had created the photographs to try to connect to the viewer with the composition being open, as the sitters eyes are facing the camera.

The lighting Curtis had used looks as though he had used a natural light throughout the photographs. This may have been done to accentuate a natural feel within the photographs. He has used the lighting to create shadows that I think work well along with the sepia tones.

The photographer has included into the frames only the sitters and with plain backgrounds. This doesn't really show a true representation of what is really going on in the photographs, although the sitters poses look natural.  This choice could make the viewer curious of what was really in the background, suggesting the shoot was captured in a studio.

The viewpoint of Curtis' photography looks to have the sitter have a portrait photograph with a monochrome sepia effect on the photograph. The sitters feelings throughout the aren't really expressed as the sitter has a straight face. This could imply that the sitter isn't feeling very happy about their current situation.

The sitter was the main focus in Curtis' photography. This is important to the portrait photography in order for his work to look professional. The use of focus draws attention to the main points of interest within the photographs. He had used a closed composition in order for the subject of the photographs to be the main focus.

Curtis' photographs don't really look as though he had used different techniques to capture a different mood. This was because most of the moods throughout his photography look quite similar. His moods are created through a sepia monochrome colour, but most of the angles for his work looked quite similar compared to each other.

Overall, I think the photographs that Curtis has captured were successful, this was based on the angles of his photography and lighting. The monochrome colours also make the photography look professional. The sitters mood was also accentuated by the monochrome sepia effect. Props may have been used in his work, but aren't really noticeable and look quite natural to the scenes.

My future portrait work could be influenced by Curtis and the way he used monochrome in his photography. I also like the professional look the sepia effect has on the viewer and evens out the colours in the photographs. I will use the sepia effect in my future photography and feel inspired by Edward. The angles of the portraiture and lighting colour also be influential towards my future work.

Edward S Curtis Photograph analysis - North American Indians, 1907

 Edward S. Curtis's 'The North American Indian': the Photographic Images, 2001.
published between 1907 and 1930

Edward S Curtis had used his photography to capture a disappearing culture. Curtis had captured the lives of 80 North American Indian tribes, this photograph is just one of them.

The photograph shows a successful portrait photograph using shallow depth of field to mainly focus on the sitter. The aperture used was small to capture more lighting through the lens. The composition was closed as the sitter of the portrait photograph was all captured and not running off the frame.

The lighting of the photograph could have been studio lighting as the lighting looks as though it comes from different directions. The photograph also has hard quality as the photograph was taken in a monochrome sepia effect. This has evened out the photograph and also sets a type of mood towards the viewer of the Indian culture; this has helped the photograph have a much more successful take.

The background of the photograph isn't really in focus, this was so the main focus was on the sitter. The photograph was in a studio as the room that photograph was taken in looks professional towards the shot. Possible props could have been used as the sitters clothing looks like a blanket. Also, in one of the other photographs Curtis has captured, looks as though the same blanket was used wrapped around the sitters head.

The camera angle of the photograph was taken straight on, this was taken to have a more accurate effect on the photograph. The sitter doesn't really have power, neither is the sitter looked upon, therefore the photograph was taken at a straight on angle for the viewer to focus on the sitter without any judgement.

The body language of the sitter suggests that she isn't very happy, according to the expression on the sitters face. This photograph could have been taken to create an effect on the viewer and even maybe feel sorry for the sitter a little bit.

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