Portrait Photography

If you were to name a modern photographer that has taken a large amount of portraits of celebrities, it would probably be Rankin. He has taken the portrait of a vast number of celebrities and other important people including the Queen; in these images he has represented a different aspect of their personalities.

In the image below of female actress Rebel Wilson, Rankin has represented the part of her that has stood up to people identifying that she is different. Rebel flies the flag for women that don’t feel they need to be the ideological norm to fit in to society; her characters aren’t the usual damsel in distress, or the eye candy for the male viewer, they make their fame through humour and being comfortable in their own skin. This portrait is striking visually, and certainly makes the viewer remember Rebel for a reason other than ‘looking pretty’. However although this portrait isn’t meant to be a strictly beauty portrait, there are many flattering aspects for Rebel: her skin looks flawless and her teeth look very white. This portrait works to¬†demonstrate that Rebel is successfully different, and that she’s beautiful because of it.

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The portrait below is of the male actor Daniel Craig, probably most famous for his current role as 007 James Bond in the Bond films. Craig is the most recent actor to take on the role of Bond and was met with some criticism when the casting choice was announced; he broke the chain of tall, dark and handsome Bonds with a new, hardened, emotional one. Now after four films, it is clear that Craig is was the right choice for the direction in which the films wanted to pursue, adding an element of emotional reality and exploring very personal plot lines related to the James Bond character. In this portrait Rankin chooses to shoot with lots of shadows, which makes the image very strong when in black and white. The portrait is taken from side on, however Craig’s face is far over to the left side of the screen, in the middle of the frame there is the side and back of Craig’s face, all in shadow. This makes the eye move left to look the the highlights on the subject’s face first, before considering the shadows and shapes in the rest of the photograph. This unconventional composition could reflect that Craig was an unconventional choice for Bond and that the whole Bond character was changing, however the strength in the shadows, highlights and shapes in the image reflect how strong Daniel is in this decision. Craig himself appears to be turning away slightly from the white space on the right, which could represent him turning away from the criticism that followed him securing the role.

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The photograph below is of music artist, Pharrell Williams, what’s really interesting about this ‘portrait’, is that it doesn’t feature the face or profile of Pharrell Williams. There is no facial representation or depiction in this portrait, which defies the conventional set up of a portrait; usually the portrait is said to depict someone. In this portrait, although Williams’ hands are featured, there is no other likeness aside from other elements such as the belt and the ring. The belt makes a bold statement and Williams appears to be wearing it like a badge of honour, making sure it stands out in the image by holding it with one hand. The other hand is positioned to show the ring, which could indicate the success and wealth he has achieved through his prosperous career, Williams could be trying to say that it’s good to be a ‘nerd’ in what you’re interested in, because you could make a huge career out of it. By making this image black and white, Rankin really brings the shapes and highlights out and makes the image appear very strong, reflecting Williams’ secure position in his own lifestyle.

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This photograph is so interesting and effective to me, because it demonstrates that you can portray the identity and personality of a person without following the conventional forms of depiction and likeness by photographing faces. Although in the other images, Rankin has achieved a really effective depiction of the subject, I like the fact that as a photographer he has explored other methods in portraying identity. In this case it is through material things like a belt and a ring and this is something I am really interesting in exploring in my project, this idea of material and consumer identity and how this is accentuated and encouraged in the world of digital and social media.


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