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StudentJohn RemingtonENGL&1015/30/18Everyone desires meaningful memories. Photographers take portraits as a means of physically capturing the memory of an individual. Unfortunately, since the dawn of photography, portrait studios have been churning out boring copies of human likenesses. Then, more recently, outdoor photography made an appearance, and candid portraits gained popularity, adding some interest. Environmental photography takes the location a step further, however, and the resulting images contain a soul, not just an illustration. Portraits are Better in Natural Surroundings, argues the best portraits employ individualized mise en scene, revealing a story beyond physical features.
The surroundings identify what makes the person unique, which could be anything from a passion for gardening to a love for reading. Environmental portrait photographers carefully select locations, posing, props, and lighting to produce a sort of photographical biography of the individual. When done well, an environmental portrait creates a memoir with character and passion. Environmental portraits capture more than a likeness. Portraits are Better in Natural Surroundings by Fred W.
Rosen and George Schaub, freelance photographers and writers, explains the definition of environmental portraiture and why the images portraying this style stand out from the usual idea of portraiture. The authors describe studio portraits as a sort of counterfeit version of the subject. On the other hand, environmental portraiture reveals true character beyond physical appearance. The article begins, Portraits taken in the rarefied atmosphere of a photographer’s studio sometimes give a stiff, idealized and false image of the subject, so more and more people are adding a whole new dimension to their images by turning to environmental portraiture.
Simply stated, an environmental portrait is one taken in the subject’s own choice of environment ” in their natural surroundings, or in any location which expresses their unique place in life (Rosen and Schaub). This defines environmental portraiture. A studio forms a suitable backdrop for replicating a likeness, but truly developing a story in a photograph requires the surroundings containing the words. A photographer can choose from a wide spectrum of locations, from the great outdoors to the inner city; the best image only requires a location with ties to what makes the subject memorable. Ideally, anyone viewing the photograph discovers a part of who the subject is. Not only does location give the photograph meaning, but it also puts the subject at ease, making the process of taking the photograph simpler for the photographer as well. Comfortable settings inspire authenticity. Rosen and Schaub give further evidence suggesting environmental portraiture reigns superior over other forms of portrait photography. Having the subject in a comfortable setting helps the photographer and the subject alike. It releases the photographer of the stress of making the subject comfortable, and the subject enjoys the process more. The authors state, Remember that in environmental portraiture, as opposed to studio portraiture, you have one huge plus: you are giving the subject the home field’ advantage. In an environment of his choosing, or one that both you and he feel is right, the subject will automatically feel more relaxed because he’s in familiar surroundings (Rosen and Schaub). Trying to make someone comfortable enough to give a genuine expression sometimes feels impossible for photographers. Putting someone at ease requires prior knowledge about the subject, and this takes too much time when the photographer does not already know them personally. However, with the right setting, the subject automatically feels in their element. In this way, environmental portraiture delivers more interesting photos, and even makes the photographer’s job easier. However, the technique does not work in just any aesthetic location.Locations must identify the subject. Rosen and Schaub explain the location must be specific to the individual. Props, poses, lighting, and composition also act as the adjectives to the story within. The whole idea of environmental portraiture develops around communicating the subject’s individuality through specific development of the surroundings in the photo. Another location might look more pleasant, but then says nothing of the person’s lifestyle or character. The authors explain, In the country there are beautiful fields of wildflowers to lie in, waterfalls to frolic in and pensive dunes that make perfect posing backgrounds. Docks have thick ropes of intertwined colors and old boats with flaking paint. Rural barns have weathered wood, old tools and stacks of hay steaming in the early morning sun. All of these make fine backgrounds, but only when the subject fits the environment (Rosen and Schaub). Many people fancy a beautiful setting to take photos in, but it merely creates a background. The photos might look nicer than a studio image, but they still lack interest. These uninspired images do not endure in the memories of the viewers. Using a location, which tells the person’s story, gives photography purpose beyond aesthetics. Furthermore, the transition from a boring copy of a likeness into something uniquely artistic, gives the image value.Environmental portraiture produces beautifully personal images. Photography, as a form of art, achieves no value without singularity. A specialized environment, showing what makes the person unlike any other, automatically transfers the subject’s rarity to the image as well. In the end, the individual inspires the image, and scenery simply tells their story. This realization shows, a scene used purely for aesthetics only creates another background anyone can replicate, but employing the person’s own uniqueness automatically makes an inimitable piece of art. Environmental portraiture proves the best way to achieve this in the field of portrait photography. The combination of character from the subject and artistic applications from the photographer designs an image which will make a powerful, lasting impression, and that image will survive throughout history. Works CitedRosen, Fred W. and Schaub, George “Camera; PORTRAITS ARE BETTER IN NATURAL SURROUNDINGS.” New York Times, Sep 13, 1981. ProQuest,
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