New Pet Portraiture
People love getting portraits of their pet’s but they are always predictable, boring and have been done before.
Hellen Van Meene discussed this at her recent talk at the National Galleries; after discovering an old portrait of a Dog in a friends home she was fascinated by how the family had treated this dog as a human part of their group – going at length to take the animals portrait and have this printed regardless of the steep costs involved in printing at the time.
Images below by Hellen Van Meene
For this project I would like to attempt to try and create something different, a marketable and individual idea, but to also add a modern and edgy dynamic.
August Sander for me is one of the first photographers to come to mind for me when thinking about portraiture. Sander has been described as “the most important German portrait photographer of the early twentieth century.”
His work includes landscape, nature, architecture, and street photography, but he is best known for his portraits, specifically his series People of the 20th Century. In this series, he aims to show a cross-section of society. The series is divided into seven sections:
- The Farmer
- The Skilled Tradesman
- Classes and Professions
- The Artists
- The City
- The Last People (homeless persons, veterans, etc.)
His work contributes to what could be considered to be the traditional formal portrait. He photographed people in their ‘Sunday Best’; as and how they chose to preset themselves…
Sander used window lighting in the rembrandt style to create depth on the faces of his subjects and often used their home surroundings to describe their class and occupation.
Elke Vogelsang is a German based dog, horse and portrait photographer. She photographs her subjects both on location and in the studio. The studio portraits struck me as they show a lot of character and facial expression in the dogs. She focusses on the eyes and uses a wide lens, getting close to the subject and drawing the viewer in to the shot, the wide lens also adding a comical effect by distorting the face which appears almost ‘too close’, using a shallow depth of field.
These types of images are perhaps not as ‘regal’ as a traditional victorian portrait, but they do show more facial character than many of the animal portraits that I have came across.
Tattoo by Megan Massacre
Odder than Antiquity
Emerson, the Steampunk French Bulldog. Prints for sale @ Odder Than Antiquity…
Lee Howell’s work is an excellent example of exaggerated character and the use of photoshop in post processing.
The colours, mix of patterns and retro designs in this image add to the nostalgic effect in this shot. The subject matter alone references the 70’s era, however by adding a specific colour palette and over the top, busy wallpaper and materials, we are transported back in time and see a sense of humour in our trends of the past.
Ines Opifanti – Dog People
Have you ever heard what people say about dogs and their owners?
Is it true?
This series by Ines Opifanti is successful in comparing the pets facial expressions with human ones. By photographing the animal and human subjects in similar poses and from the same camera angel we are invited to compare the facial differences and similarities of the subjects. The high key singular lighting add’s a cheerful and humours aspect to the image. It is also noted that some of the human portraits take on an entirely different lighting style in order to contour the face to match that of the dog.
Rankin – Pussy Cats
The below images by Rankin brought animal photography in to the fashion industry in an obscure way, forcing us to question exactly what it is find visually attractive. The cats faces are imposed on to the models bodies which are covered in fur, but still positioned in provocative poses and wearing revealing underwear.
By using ‘Pussy’ cats here he also makes light of our use of colloquial language and is questioning exactly what we are selling with imagery – he is blatantly throwing the ‘Aura’ of the image in to our face and questioning its integrity.
The desaturated colours and glamorous/seedy lighting styles suggest to the viewer that there is something not quite right about the situation….. Other of course than the human/cat woman who displays herself confidently and sexually with a direct gaze.
Platon for Garage Magazine
These images by Platon for Garage Magazine brought animal photography in to fashion in a very direct way – using similar poses, lighting, textures and materials to compare the animals fur to that of fashion items.
These images work well in a very simplistic almost Alvedon inspired way, however for me they perhaps do not have enough depth to the images, relying mostly only on appearances.
The above images are extremely expressive and work by adding humanistic facial expressions in the shots. The photographer, Chrsitian Vieler used a high speed flash and a one light lighting technique to draw your eye in to the dogs expression. By adding a vignette to the shot we are further drawn in to the image looking solely at the dogs facial expression which has also been enhanced in post.
The vibrance of the colours and higher contrast to highlight the whites of the eyes works to add a sense of cartoon humour to the images.
A Series of Unfortunate Events
by Lemony Snicket
A Series of Unfortunate Events is a series of 13 children’s novels by Lemony Snicket (the pen name of American author Daniel Handler) which follows the turbulent lives of Violet, Klaus, and Sunny Baudelaire after their parents’ death in a fire. The children are placed in the custody of their relative Count Olaf, who attempts to steal their inheritance.
The books seem to be set in an alternate, “timeless” world with stylistic similarities to both the 19th century and the 1930s.
Social commentary is a major element in the books, which often comment on the seemingly inescapable follies of human nature. Although the books are melodramatic and escapist, they also depict “the sinister menace of an all-too-real adult world”. The books consistently present the Baudelaire children as free-thinking and independent, while the adults around them obey authority and succumb to mob psychology, peer pressure, ambition and other social ills.
The ‘Series of Unfortunate Events’ dark and gothic aesthetic appeals to me for it’s black humour comedy and opulence. I have always been fascinated by the look and atmosphere of a Tim Burton movie and this style references that throughout.
The desaturated colours and Victorian influence add to the nostalgia but could possibly be too dark in theme for this project. This is something that I would like to experiment with in post production stages.
Jill Greenberg is known for her character filled portraits which make use of digging and burning to create further depth and shadow. The above crying children are great examples of her work where she also focusses on a very specific lighting style. The facial expression and emotions shown in these images are severe and immense.
This type of highly edited work could work well for this project. The editing style here could work in terms of adding depth and character to the portraits.
Pets are no longer only in our lives to hunt and serve their masters, but also to provide love and affection as other family members do. The idea for this project is to combine traditional victorian portraiture with pet portraiture – representing the high level at which we now find our pets in the home hierarchy and just how important they have grown to be to family life.
The images should invoke a feeling of regal, victorian traditional portraiture, solidifying their role in contributing to the human race.
The images will have an alternative aesthetic to that of common pet portraiture and although they will reference the old school traditional portraits of the past, they will also use modern editing techniques and have a modern and pop culture edge which will be appealing to pet owners who would ordinarily search for something ‘a bit different’ in a portrait.
These images should appeal to an alternative audience with and interest in creative arts and could be found in independent creative magazines such as ‘So it Goes’.
This type of image could also be used in the advertising industry to gain attention for a campaign or product.
Shoot: A series of studio portraits of select pets with ‘character’ and strong facial expressions/looks. The images will be head shots and pets should be sitting upright and facing at a slight angle to the camera referencing a Victorian portrait. Having the pets head slightly at an angle will add depth and interest to the image. Lighting used will be a rembrandt lighting technique also referencing the traditional portrait.
To recreate retro/vintage patterns I will be photographing opulent and detailed wallpapers, wrapping papers and patterned materials and compositing these patterns in to the final shots along with opulent Victorian frames.
Casting: Dog breeds which will work best for this shoot include gun dogs such as Spaniels, Weimaraner & Bassett Hounds, also Pomeranians, Bull Dogs and any other breeds which have distinguished features, attributes and facial expressions. Cats are also potential subjects for inclusion, distinguished colouring and markings will be something to take in to account when casting.
Styling: Dog and Cat clothes could be a potential styling option, bow ties and decorations could work, however this will be an experimental option as it could be a bit over the top and become too comical.
Post: The images will be bold, kitsch, kooky, and opulent. The subjects faces should be full of character and may require the use of the liquify tool to add further humanistic facial features and character.
Tutorials and Editing Developments
“its interesting in that my large format prints have always been mistaken for paintings since I do layers of Photoshop painting to enhance highlights and shadows– I wanted to continue that discussion, and comment on other ideas I had about photography’s lack of respect in the art world and commercial world”