Photo London Talk: Facing the Future of Portraiture 18th Jan 2017 with Laura Pannack at Somerset House, London
This entry is my recollection and reflection of the talk.
The talk started with a discussion about the commission she got after winning a Taylor Wessing Award at the National Portrait Gallery. She described how the project was a shared collaboration between her and Felicity Jones. Laura felt the commission worked well, talking about her initial ideas for the shoot and how it evolved following a discussion with the film star. She talked about creating a relaxed environment for the shoot and the boundless possibilities that exist that allow her to create some different and original.
Laura discussed her use of film, natural light and space and the joy she gets from the analogue photographic process. The use of film slows the process of creation as there is no immediate feedback of the captured image that exists with digital photography. Laura observed that the time gap in the analogue process between capture and processing helps with her creative process.
Laura discussed working with the adolescent subjects who are undergoing a rapid change and development. She felt it was important to get to know her subjects to be better informed. To gain access to the Jewish (confirm specific sect) family that she has recorded for one of her longer term personal projects was the result of building trust with the family and now sometimes she visits the family but does not take her camera with her.
Laura next talked about her work with naturists and travelling to different locations in the UK. To record the images there was a need to be accepted by the naturist community to understand her subjects while at the same time she felt is was important to be clear with them though she understood their lifestyle choices she did not want to be converted.
Laura mentioned that photographers as a group generally do not like to be photographed, as part of her degree she placed the camera behind to break the link between subject and the camera in a project titled “Glass” <check name>.
When discussing her creative process for project’s Laura explained that during the planning process she creates a visual wall to capture the information related to project. She also discussed using chance exploration as part of the creative process where she and a friend would randomly select a destination and go to that location to record what she encounters. I could be a train journey in the UK or a flight to a different country. Laura explained that creating boundaries or limitations creates for time to capture the subject. Looking at specific subjects results in better quality images however nothing is really new. She described the process of curious exploration with intention as a photographic approach she frequently uses to capture images.
Portraiture is an important element of my photographic practice and I particularly enjoy the process of collaborating with the subject of my images which is why when Laura described her approach to portraiture it strongly resonated with my own experiences. When taking portraits I look to create a dialogue between myself and subject to create natural safe environment. Most of the time when taking portraits I work alone without an assistant so that my attention is solely focused on the sitter.
I was particularly taken by the variety within Laura’s personal projects and interested to learn how those projects informed her commercial work. It was interesting to learn that typically she is using film because it helps her slow down the creative process. I have recently returned to using film within my practice but I have yet to venture into the world of medium format film.
The final parallel between my own work an Laura’s is that she like to travel, visiting different location including random train journeys. Where I am not as bold as Laura is that I tend to be cautious about approaching strangers and asking if I can take a portrait, this is something I plan to change as I embark on the main project for my MA.
More information is available on Laura’s website