If you follow me on Twitter you'll already know that I'm doing a night class in photography. Actually I'm doing two different classes, in case you're confused. One is History of Photography in the Glucksman Art Gallery and the other is practical Photography (mostly black and white film) in the Crawford College of Art. Last Thursday was the first of those classes and it started with a really great lecture about Photography within Contemporary Art by Trish Brennan, which got me really excited about what the course is going to be like! Our first project is to make a set of photos using an objective approach. I've decided to do portraits so I've been looking at photos by August Sanders.
Because alot of Sanders portraits show people in their working clothes or environment and are captioned by their occupation, they reminded me of Irving Penn's series Small Trades which I read about recently in Septembers issue of American Vogue. (thanks Sinéad!) The Getty Centre is currently showing all 252 portraits Irving Penn shot in three cities, Paris, London and New York around 1950/51. He was doing a lot of fashion photography at the time and he photographed the tradespeople in the same studios, with the same attention to lighting and with the same beauty and elegance that he used to shoot couture gowns.
A lot of today's streetstyle photography reminds me of these series of photos. In fact the Sartorialist mentioned Sanders as one of his inspirations. There is a similar objective style of photography. On the surface it may seem that the subject is slightly different, style versus occupation, but really it is all about portraiture and people. And about how people's identity is expressed by what they wear, whether that is a uniform for a job, a well cut suit, a student wearing a quirky outfit or a fashion editor wearing a beautiful dress.
Its interesting to note the last two photos which the Sartorialist took recently at Paris Fashion Week, as they are in black and white, and relate them back to the photos taken by Sanders and Penn. It is easy to see the similarities.
So that's the overflow of thoughts floating around in my head and the background to my first project for my photography class. I might (just might) show the results of my project when its done... depending on how it turns out!