This week’s images are all outakes. They are the frames I have rejected because they are too posed or the expression is too contrived. Most of my photographs are portraits. I try to capture something of a person that goes beyond the exterior. I want to get behind the front that people project to the outside world. All of these images were rejected for more natural or more honest pictures.

Last week on Martin Parr’s blog, he wrote about his frustration when at the moment he holds up his camera to take a photograph, people immediately change and start smiling and posing. Whatever had initially sparked his interest is then lost. Martin puts this down to what he calls ” The Facebook problem”. He says that people (especially young people), are already thinking about showing their friends on Facebook what a good time they are having, and so they project this to the camera.

I see another reason, that Martin and all other photographers are faced with young people posing for the camera in this way. Facebook is only a tool for sharing photographs. I consider digital photography to be the culprit. When you take a photograph with a digital camera everyone wants to see the result, then and there on the camera screen. They have an opportunity to analyse the photograph, deside what they like/don’t like about how they look in the image, and take another shot. They can then modify their stance, pull in their tummy, tilt their head and adopt what they consider to be a more flattering expression, which shows themselves in a better light. Young people have grown up with digital photography. They have also been influenced by celebrity culture and have borrowed the poses from the red carpet, but I believe the instant feedback provided by a digital camera is just all to tempting to people that are still discovering and experimenting with their identity.

I have noticed that when I look at a photograph of myself I am immediately critical. If I look at the same photograph a week later it doesn’t seem quite so bad. If I leave it a year I might start to think it is a good picture of me. Leave it 5 years and I wish I still looked like that. We cannot distance ourselves from images of ourselves that we see in the present. Time helps us to become a bit more objective.

Children and young people are the subject of many of my photographs and I see how they now have such clear ideas of how to stand, pose and smile for the camera. This was not the case even 10 years ago. I tend not to show my 5yr old daughter the digital photographs that I take of her – not at the time. I don’t think that kind of immediate and repetitive visual feedback can be too healthy and I want to be able to take natural pictures of her, without the pose and attitude. I will show her the photograph, but later on when we are not in that moment of taking the picture and some time has past between picture taking and viewing. The moment will have passed along with the temptation to tilt the head or push out the hip.

Martin Parr doesn’t want the people he photographs to pose for him. He wants to record the moment that ‘caught his eye in the first place’. Not the moment influenced by the photographers presence. My aim is to capture an honest portrait of a person rather that the facade. But perhaps it will be the posed photographs and the outtakes, that as we look back on this time, will best reflect this digital celebrity obsessed age.

  1. Another excellent post Kirsty.
    Really enjoying your thoughts on photography.
    I find that so often the first few frames of digital capture, which are sometimes the ‘test’ frames, are actually the ‘Polaroid moment’.
    A moment which was near on impossible to re-create on film, but which we are now able to keep on digital.
    Viva la revolution…?

    • Yes, vive la revolution! I might come across as being negative about digital. It’s just change and I am learning more and more about the many advantages of digital capture.

      Polaroids were great for test shots, but as you say now with digital you can keep them. I still have many cherished Polaroids take by you!

  2. I love your post and agree with what you’re saying. When I’m shooting a wedding, I like to use longer lenses and capture moments I would not have been able to get if I was closer.

    • Ah yes, that could be another way round it. Thanks for the comment.

  3. I also enjoyed reading your thoughts and I share your views on the subject. Although I am very new to portrait photography I hope the theory proves correct that by talking and trying to get to know your subject to put them at ease will allow them to eventually feel comfortable in front of the camera.

  4. DB Redfern said:

    Interesting comments on posing for photographs. I don’t think it is just digital that has made people conscious of own image though. I remember being at a wedding with a group of female friends and being told by one of them to stand sideways with one leg bent as this made you look slimmer!

    I do think it is interesting though looking at people’s photos on Facebook though as lots of people seemed to have perfected their “Facebook” face (pouting, smiling sideways etc) as they appear in the same pose on every photo.

  5. Something is making us all much more ‘self aware’ and ‘affected’. I worry that it means a loss of innocence and it takes pleasure out of enjoying the moment if we are worrying so much about how we look.

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