Inside & Outside the Frame

Photography is all about the frame. What stays in what stays out. Photographs ‘work’ when the elements inside the frame are separated from whats outside the frame and through this separation begin to create new relationships with the things that are with them inside the frame. Thats it.

The photographer can control many elements of a subject or scene, but his main tool is how he/she frames a scene, where he/she decides to draw a line around things and seperate them from the rest of the visual world.

Today I’ve had a brief look through the early days of Alec Soth’s blog and I read a piece about one of his favourite photographers Peter Hujar. I then discovered that a picture I know from the cover of an album I love by the band Anthony & the Johnsons was taken by Hujar (below).

Candy Darling on her Deathbed - Peter Hujar

Candy Darling on her Deathbed - Peter Hujar

Then I noticed on google images that the Guardian and the Times had used versions of this picture in articles about Hujar and had heavily cropped the image (see below)
from the Guardian Website

from the Guardian Website

from the Times website

from the Times website

As someone who spends a lot of time thinking about what stays in, and out of the frame (as I’m sure Hujar did) this cropping of his original square image annoyed me. Im sure the designer just though it would fit the page better as they do with every image that goes into a newspaper, but both these articles were about an exhibtion of Hujar’s work – I’m sure they wouldn’t trim a bit of the top and bottom of a Monet (actually Im not that sure).

Anyway, last week I started work on a series of portraits as part of the project at the Tower, I havn’t done a lot of portraits in the past and I’m finding the process very exciting, I will post the first images as soon as I get it back from the lab. With my mind on portraiture and looking at Hujars work I found this wonderful picture of Edwin Denby.

Edwin Denby by Peter Hujar

Edwin Denby by Peter Hujar

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4 thoughts on “Inside & Outside the Frame

  1. Thats an interesting question. I think I do approach all my subject matter in the same way, but the difference with a portrait is that it takes me longer to stop thinking about what is in front of the camera and start thinking about what will appear in the camera as a picture.

    I’m going to be quite open and say that I feel quite vulnerable while making portraits, because the way I respond to ‘more static subjects’ is a very personal and solitary experience. When you have a person as your photographic subject there is suddenly this whole other aspect to the situation – my thoughts are not purely on the image, they are also considering the expectations, feelings, comfort (etc) of the sitter. Unlike my other photographs, the portrait becomes more obviously about the relationship between myself, the subject and the camera.

    But in a visual/photographic sense I am looking for the portrait to effect me in the same way as my other pictures, I want them to speak in the same voice.

  2. I think that when I make a photograph of a location (without people) I am almost unaware of the camera (Raymond Moore said something along the lines of ‘the best camera is the one you don’t have to think about’) it is a tool and its presence doesn’t effect the place I am photographing, where as the person being photographed for a portrait will, in some way, be effected by the presence of the camera. The camera in this situation becomes an object of some sort of tension, I guess (as it is early days for my portraiture) that this tension, in some way becomes the real subject of a portrait.

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