Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Ellen's Eyes

Ellen has sat for me before, and when she agreed to again I had high hopes that I could begin a new series that could explore some ideas that I have been researching; however her workload has about doubled and she doesn’t feel able to commit. Whilst I fully understand I am disappointed, though we both know that if she had of committed and then had to let me down it would have been a lot worse. We therefore decided that would use this session as a one-off and I decided to do a couple of things, more later, and Ellen did say that if time became freer again she would get in contact.

f11, 1/100th sec, ISO 200, 200mm
The eye is a principle means of contact between people and animals and whilst one of the exercises is about holding the lens/eye connection I decided to focus my attention on Ellen’s eye(s) as one part of the sitting. The other will be written up later as it is based on film and I have yet to develop/scan and edit the results – it will be very much different to this set!

The shot above used flash, a couple of 1mtr soft boxes. I used this set up at the beginning to "soften" the blow by taking a few shots in relatively quick succession. All the rest in this post and using film were tungsten. I prefer continuous lighting as I'm able to control the light fall more easily and experiment.

All of these shots have a short, or very narrow depth of field; isolating Ellen's eyes, in an attempt to draw the viewers focus to make a decision about connection with Ellen. The first edit here shows that I chosen mainly shots that deflect attention away from Ellen to whatever Ellen is focussing on, she is distracted by something else. In fact this is the case. I was using two cameras at the time. One was a zone - plate camera, which was taking up to four minutes an exposure and Ellen was asked to keep still and "focus" on the wooden box, whilst I used one of three other cameras to take other shots - of which this is a selection - (which will form a later post (I hope)). However I think the "lack" of perceived engagement puts another twist on these very "focussed" images becoming almost intimate/voyeuristic shots. Additionally these last few (four?) shots amplify this intimacy/vulnerability with no reference to clothing - especially the horizontal shot. I also feel the abstraction from any other visual references in the frame, other than Ellen, tends to amplify any vulnerability, and maybe the very shallow depth of field exaggerates the perception of that fragility? Not sure and will think about that more. What is missing is a set of shots that have Ellen engaging with the viewer via the lens, this would require another as these viewpoints were taken with the ZP camera - albeit with a significantly deeper depth of focus with an aperture of f48!

Technical details top left to right (all shots 1/100th sec):1 - f2.5, ISO 450, 60mm (90mm equiv'). 2 - f1.4, ISO 200, 85mm. 3 - f1.4, ISO 640, 85mm. 4 - f2.2, ISO 400, 60mm (90mm equiv'), 5 - f2.5, ISO 500, 60mm (90mm equiv'), 6 - f2.2, ISO 2500, 60mm (90mm equiv'). 7 - f2.4, ISO 1800, 60mm (90mm equiv').


  1. These are interesting pictures. I look forward to seeing the rest of the set. One thing that immediately strikes me given the title is that in most pictures the eyes are not lit - there are very few catchlights. This has the effect of deadening the look and making it flatter. I imagine that was intended, but am still uncertain about where you are going with this work. I look forward to finding out soon!

  2. Thanks Eileen, The second part is taking some time as it is all film - I hope to have something written up soon. I take your point about the catch lights - but I didn't set up to have them included from these viewpoints as you recognise, the second set does have some highlight, but not as we know it! Ellen does have a natural and quite beautiful smile, though she knows not to as a norm when sitting for me.