Visual and Symbolic Analysis for Idea 1: ‘Untitled Portrait’ photographed by Eoin Macken
This photograph was taken by Eoin Macken, and is a sample of his portrait gallery. I chose this particular photograph because I felt it embodied Macken’s style and was inspirational in terms of my own photograph ideas.
The subject of the photograph is dark and poignant, and we almost feel like we’re intruding on such a vulnerable moment. Her gaze is into the distance and it’s sheltered and guarded, her posture small yet independent. And so the candid nature of the photograph is important, because it means we are given a window into her soul and spirit. Macken quotes that his portraits ‘aim for an observational style to capture the personality of the individual,’ and that has been accomplished perfectly.
Macken has managed to highlight the subject of his photograph by, effectively, rendering her the darkest part of the image. This purposeful and clever way of drawing our eyes is one I’m not wholly familiar with. Deep black hair frames a lighter face that, in turn, frames two sable eyes. The holes in her face make us feel disconnected from her and intensify our curiosity as to what lay inside. That is, inside her head.
A guitar case lies on it’s side in front of her while light hands fiddle with the catch, opening or closing it, we do not know. We are then greeted with a sense of anticipation. A million possibilities spread out along a few frets and that distant look in her face could now be the stifled wonder at playing her beloved instrument yet again. Each time it’s the same but it’s still oh, so different. The street around her continues to bustle with life, but she doesn’t mind. They all have there own wonder-moments, and this time it’s hers.
The instrument itself does not contain the magic, as it is so often thought. Macken illustrates this by keeping the smooth guitar case in the shadows. It is the woman’s hands that inject the life - the brightest and whitest part of her body, as this is what she does for herself and for others. The car behind her reflects the sun’s rays and her little patch of self-imposed darkness is almost like a secluded corner from which she blooms and begins to share her own rays with the world. As an audience, we are drawn into a story we probably didn’t even know we were reading.
I believe that the main issue highlighted in this photograph is, first and foremost, the choice to use monochrome. Most of Macken’s portrait photography is shot in black and white film, and I believe it gives us a chance to really enjoy the strong contrast and tones created by both the light and the absence of it. Some particularly effective points would be the delicate ebony curls flying against the shine of the car. The tail lights of cars blinking at us; giving us perspective on the woman’s life, for much can be assumed when the street is your stage.
My personal response to this photograph is that it’s incredibly successful and aesthetically pleasing. I adore the hazy white glow of the surroundings coupled with the intricate, hardening black of hair strands and sleeve netting. I also like the way she is positioned to the far side of the photograph, the negative space leading us to believe there is more to her than meets the eye; a wider scope and realisation that she is not alone - the same way none of us are. There’s always more to it.
For my own photographs, this has inspired me to take chances with increased contrast and experiment with the amazing shapes such simple shadows can make. I want to use every part of the photograph to my advantage, each knitting together part of a story. This is especially important as my photographs need to be suitable for the companion interview piece. A unique style belonging only to the individual needs to be clear and as well as a connection to the audience. Imagination is key in portrait photography and I feel that I have learnt a lot about how a location can have an effect on the meaning of a photograph. as well as negative space. My own concept will feature around capturing the youth of the subject, yet also paying homage to her maturity and obvious success. I will be working in monochrome for the first part, to increase attention to the tonal range of the subject and her clothing. Afterwards, I intend to inject colour manually and play around with the outcome it creates.