Mission: Submission Pt. IV

This time it’s Studio Portraiture using the brief of “Fictions Of The Self” where we were to find a portrait painting and reimagine it using photography in the university’s ample studios.

Apart from a small pay around with studio lights in a previous photographic society, I’ve never touched this sort of equipment before. Using a light meter to measure stops of light was an alien concept to me at first, and while it made perfect sense after a short time it was still a challenging time. We were asked to form groups so I worked closely with a couple of classmates and less closely with a couple of others who didn’t always attend.

“Sir Joshua Reynolds”

I flicked though through loads of portraits in the National Portrait Gallery’s catalogue and noticed a self portrait of a famous painter by the name of Sir Joshua Reynolds, amongst several other images that I played with and some that I left alone. “American Gothic” and “Son Of Man” would have been interesting to reimagine but the cache they have would be difficult to work with.

I chose this image to re-imagine as I think the self portrait of the artist is an interesting concept. It’s the artist’s interpretation of themselves and their opportunity to alter their public persona. It’s a painting of an artist to prove his capability and competence but he’s wearing clothes that he wouldn’t normally be using to carry out his work.

My portrait was me in modern day attire to persuade people to use my services as Reynolds’ was. The palette and mahl stick were replaced by a camera to bring it up to date also. I worked on getting the shirt cuffs to be outside of the jacket sleeves and the lighting on the face was tricky too but we managed it as a group.

“Jonathan Miller”

Another of my selections that I wanted to try was a painting by Stephen Conroy of a veteran broadcaster Jonathan Miller, painted in 1999 in an unusual side on perspective in front of a vertically themed background.

In revision week I returned to the studio on the off-chance that my team mates were there so that one of them could take the credit for pushing the shutter release button on this image, but there was only myself and a couple of L6 students there preparing for their Hand-In and Degree Show.

After setting up the scenery and the camera using the mannequin, I sat in its place and asked Andy off the L6 to press the shutter and this he did with consummate ease.

I was happy with the outcome of the photo and it speaks of my pensiveness regarding the hand in of the work for my first year. The look of uncertainty on my face and the head resting on the right hand does indicate that I’m thinking about something, what exactly is up to the viewer’s imagination.

“Vincent Van Gogh”

Veronica chose this painting of Van Gogh by his colleague John Peter Russell and we helped her get the pose as accurate as possible with the lighting and the eye-line as well as the hand position being tricky. Euripides, the course leader, asked why she was holding a pencil in the image rather than altering it for something that says something more about herself. She was happy with the overall image but looking at it now I can see that the black is possibly too black and not grey enough to provide the separation between the coat and the background. Although in all fairness, this image is far clearer to see on a larger clearer screen and not a web page.

“Young Sick Bacchus”

Meg was another member of my group and she chose as one of her reimaginings the painting by Caravaggio of himself dressed as though he were Bacchus. The contents of the image were updated by Meg to represent more of what she would eat and drink today.

The outcome of this image was very pleasing and the lighting made Meg look a little jaundiced as Caravaggio had been when he painted this image. Meg took directions really well and I set up the lights using the correct methods before actuating the shutter to capture this image.


Overall, the images that we all chose to reimagine and capture on the cameras all came out well and gave a sense of the original painting in most cases. It was tricky to direct people with the lights and the meter as well as suggesting pose changes to the subject. Being the subject of the image was also enlightening as you feel relatively powerless to do much when you need to be sat still and not changing the position or the requirements of the lights.

Working out what each of the paintings meanings may have been was a big ask for me as I’ve only recently come across semiotics and the symbolism in these images. It’s been a big step in my knowledge and experience levels working in the studio and discussing with the others and the lecturers different ideas, theories etc…

Maybe in the next academic year for me, I will learn more in the contextual studies and year long project by actually being in and around lots of chatter about the subjects at hand. Being only involved in this Media And Methods module this year left me feeling a little left out in terms of the knowledge that my classmates were picking up. Obviously, it’s my choice to do the course part time so I will learn even more next year. The other difficulty is of course, that I will be with an entirely new set of classmates as they begin their L4 adventure and I complete my L4 years worth of work.

Looking forward to it, is a huge understatement!!

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