‘Environmental Portraits’ – ‘Max the Manic Busker’

This brief was set to encourage us to seek out potential portrait subjects and to shoot them in their environment or specifically in a environment that one may have pre- designed, scoped in advance, or chosen in order to reflect the person and their gesture or expression. The clearest definition of a ‘Portrait’ we were given is a photograph of a person where the photographer has directed the action, a portrait is an intervention, a coerced scenario where the photographer has formed some kind of relationship or ‘contract’ with the ‘sitter’ and sees something in the scene that they wish to bring out into the photograph. In this sense the environment around the sitter can serve to reinforce this view – either through reflecting the person and telling us something about the sitters circumstances; or by contradiction, a confounding of the expectations raised in the eye of the audience when trying to read the photograph or pin the subject down.

Thoughts on the process: Max is a busker, a fiddler, a bright-bushy gentleman of copious vocabulary and a play-cynical attitude. He plays a beautiful violin and bows out tunes of a celtic nature outside the National Portrait Gallery in london. Maybe you’ve seen him? Next time give him some money! I first saw Max last year and asked to take some photographs of him, I had a little compact with me that day and sent some shots to him by e-mail. For this assignment he was an obvious choice to photograph. After writing to him to arrange a shoot I arrived at 1.30pm on Sunday 6th Feb to find the streets around Trafalgar Square full of revellers celebrating Chinese New Year. I decided to shoot him using medium format film and a 6×4.5 camera. Here he is.


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