I’m not sure if ‘storyboarding’ is exactly the right word for a non-narrative work, but it’s the closest I could think of for what I’ve been doing – visually planning each shot, including sketching out proposed compositions.
As a quick reminder, my assignment will be a set of portraits of four committee members of Newbridge Park, a local volunteer group who have redeveloped disused woodland into a mountain bike park.
The brief asks that the three shots of each person are all taken in the same location. It felt very appropriate to shoot all the images in the woodland park itself.
While the brief doesn’t specify this, I strongly feel that rather than have three slight variations of pose or expression, it would be more interesting to adopt three different styles of portraiture, as summarised below with my sketches alongside.
1. Traditional head/shoulders portrait
For all four sitters I will shoot a fairly traditional portrait, focusing on the face, with background de-emphasised. These are more about the person and less about their involvement with Newbridge Park.
2. Environmental portrait
For all four I will place the subject in a wide shot that gives equal prominence to the woodland environment. In this way the subjects are being presented as part of the wider volunteer group – their similarities are emphasised, not their differences. There may however be scope to introduce some more specific props e.g. bikes.
3. Individual portraits / face obscured
I want each sitter to get a portrait that is specifically constructed to denote their individual contribution to Newbridge Park – to celebrate the difference and diversity that makes the committee team successful.
I also want to investigate the notion of whether you can get a sense of a person from a portrait that does not clearly show their face. Non-facial portraiture is an area of photography that I increasingly find fascinating (and am considering making the subject of my critical review assignment, but more on that later in the year…).
So my challenge here was to come up with an execution concept per sitter that (a) illustrated their distinct involvement in the group and (b) obscured their face. My proposals are sketched below.
Also included are some notes on each individual (my perception / self-perception).
Rick’s specialism is woodland management (he’s a botanist, works for Defra) and he coordinates activities such as maintaining the native flora and planting new trees on a regular basis.
Rick is a reliable member of the committee who puts a lot of time into making sure his end of the project is running smoothly, as well as getting involved in wider activities. He’s usually more of a ‘back office’ contributor compared to the others who are more the public face of the group. He got involved as his children were growing up and he had more time on his hands, coupled with a desire to do something good for the town.
My vision for the bespoke Rick shot is to have him standing behind foliage – I want to give the impression that he is some kind of half-man/half-tree hybrid :-)
Nicola is the youngest member of the committee and is studying bookkeeping as part of her day job at North York Moors National Park. She is our treasurer and looks after the bank account, plus is very involved in frontline fundraising.
Nicola brings bags of enthusiasm, organisational skills and increasing financial knowledge to the committee. She got involved initially as she wanted to give something back to the community (a common volunteering motivation) and had got interested in mountain biking. Also, she gets to practice her burgeoning bookkeeping studies on the group.
For these reasons I envisage Nicola rattling a collecting tin at arm’s length.
Mike is chairman of the committee, and has driven the initiative tirelessly for over five years. He is an absolute mountain biking fanatic, and a bike guide/instructor for a living.
He runs the show; much as he’d like to share the load more with the other committee members, it would probably fall apart if he stepped away. His motivation is that he’s passionate about both biking and doing something to help the community, which makes Newbridge Park a perfect fit.
The prop for this one has to be a mountain bike. I see Mike peering through the spinning wheel of an upturned bike (mixed metaphor alert: he keeps the wheels on the whole operation / spins the plates).
Tim is a retired GP and pillar of the local community, and several years ago used his civic influence to get the nascent project the support it needed to get off the ground. Though less involved now, he is still an ambassador and occasional lobbyist for us.
Tim’s contribution is his persuasive manner, his contacts and his years of civic experience. His initial drive for the project was his experience as a doctor seeing young people leading increasingly sedentary lives; he wanted to get the community to take more of an interest in physical activities.
The image I have in mind for Tim is him pointing a leaf-blower at a pile of dry leaves directly in front of him such that a cloud of leaves flies up to partially obscure his face. The reason for this is twofold: firstly it is literal as any time we have a maintenance day in the woods Tim comes along with his leaf-blower (I think he finds it therapeutic…) and secondly it is metaphorical as he was the original ‘path-clearer’ for the project back in the day, via his lobbying of the town council and others.
Just a quick note on sequencing: have mapped out these sketches (simply in the order that I arranged the shooting sessions) it’s becoming clearer to me that there might be an optimum sequence to present these subjects, in a rough implied timeline of the project (past-present-future).
- Tim: got the project off the ground
- Mike: keeps the whole operation running
- Nicola: makes sure we stay afloat financially
- Rick: plants for the future
A slight variation on this, switching around the last two, makes the implied narrative more about the older generation handing over to the younger:
- Tim: 60s
- Mike: 40s
- Rick: 40s
- Nicola: 20s
I’ll decide later but I do like the idea of having some overarching structure to how I present the four subjects. I can’t resist looking for a narrative…
More to follow…