Film for Portraiture

Posted on October 18, 2011


My long term plan for my Advanced studies is to complete a series or several series of portraits using large format film. The fundamental issue here is to be able to produce portrait photographs of life size scale, which I believe will induce a more engaged response from the viewer.

I want the viewers to spend time with my portraits. To look at my subjects as one might look at a person one meets. To assimilate their facial features, clothing, body shape. To speculate on their age. To wonder about their nationality. To be intrigued by the ‘cult’ represented by the collection of portraits within the typological series. To wonder what motivates these people to adopt the lifestyle and challenges that they do.

It is some time since I have worked with film so over the coming months I will be experimenting with film in my photography. For portraiture I am considering using Kodak Portra. This film is advertised as having strong colour saturation, fine grain and accurate skin tones. Just what I need for my portraits of ironman triathletes….but we shall see.

Below is one of the first examples of my portraiture using Kodak Portra. This was shot on 35mm and scanned using my Epson V700. It is a portrait of a Russian market trader in a small street market just of Piccadilly in London. I am planning to complete a typological series of portraits of market traders. I am interested in the relationship between the traders and their stalls. These could be regarded as temporary stage sets which the traders construct around themselves to showcase their goods and indeed themselves. The nature of the displays says much about the individuals and their personalities.

As regards the film itself, I like the skin tones and saturated colour…the actual performance met the advertising hype in this respect. Similarly, the grain is fine and detail rendition excellent. The image I took all had a slight blue tone. This could be due to shooting daylight film in shade. The negatives scanned well and the resulting digital files had wide tonal range and only small adjustments to contrast and saturation were needed. Correction of colour would also have been straightforward although I chose to retain the original balance.

St James Church market, Piccadilly London