15 April 2017

Adding Context to Street Portraits

Any half-length street portrait (interactive or candid, see: Making Decisions in Tamil Nadu) is often, explicit or implicit, also an environmental portrait which typically illuminates the subject's life, culture and surroundings.
There are three different ways to include, to photograph and to inform about the subject’s context in a head shot and/or half-length portrait:

(i) the relevant background: the photographer uses relevant areas or structures of the subject’s natural and/or cultural surroundings or background in order to convey interesting context information about the person being photographed; e.g. an artist in her atelier, a villager in the mountains, or a market woman at the marketplace. The background might be blurred, but relevant structures are still identifiable or discernible.

(ii) the significant detail: the photographer includes distinctive elements from the subject’s life, culture and surroundings, which can often be quite small but still significant and meaningful, especially if they are (a) parts and details, (b) symbols and logos, (c) contrasts and contradictions; e.g. the tribal nose jewellery of an Indian Adivasi woman, the masterpiece of an artist, or the camera type and lens of a street photographer. Those accessories can provide plenty of information about the subject’s context.

(iii) the facial features as such: the photographer takes only a close-up photograph of the subject’s face (e.g. an outdoor head shot in front of a neutral or heavily blurred background) and acts under the assumption that the subject’s facial features and expressions, his or her gender, racial and cultural characteristics, age, wrinkles, facial tattoos, facial hair and beards, hair style, make-up, scars, etc. are sufficient clues for the subject’s life.

Below are three examples for (i) adding context by using relevant background structures:

Matt Hahnewald Photography; Facing the World; photography; photo; image; frame; physiognomy; psychological; educational; lively; favourite; superior; excellent; interesting; Nikon D3100; Nikkor AF-S 50mm f/1.8G; prime lens; 50mm lens; 4 : 3 aspect ratio; horizontal format; street; portraiture; portrait; closeup; headshot; full-face view; backdrop; yellow; outdoor; colour; world cultures; cultural; character; personality; real people; human head; human face; human eyes; facial expression; eye contact; full beard; long hair; yoga; yoga teacher; books; bareheaded; consent; empathy; rapport; respect; encounter; environmental portrait; travel portrait; Hinduism; Pashupata Shaivism; Shaivite yogi; tradition; temple; Pashupatinath; Kathmandu; Nepal; one person; male; adult; posing; authentic; open-minded; handsome; powerful; soulful; relaxed
Matt Hahnewald Photography; Facing the World; photo; image; closeup; street portrait; headshot; outdoor; world; cultures; cultural; one person; character; people; female; adult; ethnic; horizontal format; human; face; eyes; eye contact; photography; consent; empathy; rapport; portrait; portraiture; environmental portrait; ethnic portrait; travel portrait; travel destination; colour; 4 : 3 aspect ratio; posed; Julu; Manang District; Asia; South Asia; Nepal; Himalayas; Annapurna Circuit; Nikon D3100; Nikkor AF-S 50mm f/1.8G; trekking; colourful; en face; front view; Tibetan woman; old woman; villager; earrings; wrinkles; lived-in face
Matt Hahnewald Photography; Facing the World; photography; photo; image; amazing; spectacular; outstanding; fantastic; favourite; superior; excellent; interesting; Nikon D3100; Nikkor AF-S 50mm f/1.8G; prime lens; 50mm lens; 4 : 3 aspect ratio; horizontal format; street; portraiture; closeup; headshot; three-quarter view; depth of field; orange; outdoor; sunshine; colour; colourful; world cultures; cultural; character; personality; real people; human head; human face; forehead; sandalwood paste; chandan; tilaka; human eyes; eyeglasses; facial expression; eye contact; moustache; stubbly beard; orange robe; priest; bareheaded; sikha; consent; empathy; rapport; respect; encounter; environmental portrait; travel; Hinduism; Brahmin; temple; Konark; Orissa; East India; Indian man; one person; male; posing; authentic; dignified; spiritual; horizontally challenged; Sun Temple
Below are three examples for (ii) adding context by including meaningful details of the subjects’ personal lives:

Matt Hahnewald Photography; Facing the World; photography; photo; image; spectacular; dynamic; lively; outstanding; fantastic; favourite; superior; excellent; magnificent; interesting; inspirational; Nikon D3100; Nikkor AF-S 50mm f/1.8G; prime lens; 50mm; 4 : 3 aspect ratio; horizontal format; closeup; portrait; portraiture; street; outside; colour; world cultures; cultural; real people; human; human head; photographer; male; holding Nikon DSLR camera; candid; encounter; travel; young Buddhist monk; one person; adult; incredible; determined; focused; photographing; snapping; shooting; taking a photo; amateur; orange robe; body language; gesture; with both hands; eyeglasses; respect; Buddhism; temple; Piyamaharaj Day; Bangkok; Thailand; authentic; Wat Prayurawongsawas; Wat Prayoon; religion; orange; half-length portrait; two-third view

Matt Hahnewald Photography; Facing the World; photography; photo; image; right hand; basket; smiling; teeth; three nose rings; amazing; spectacular; dynamic; lively; favourite; interesting; Nikon D3100; Nikkor AF-S 50mm f/1.8G; prime lens; 50mm lens; 4 : 3 aspect ratio; horizontal format; street; closeup; three-quarter view; outdoor; colour; cultural; character; personality; real people; human head; human face; human eyes; facial expression; eye contact; carrying on the head; market; market woman; consent; empathy; rapport; respect; fun; encounter; environmental portrait; travel; Koraput; Orissa; East India; one person; female; mature woman; posing; attitude; authentic; awesome; working; walking; nose; nose jewellery; tribal; earrings; Dongria Kondh woman; Dongria Kondh tribe; Kondha people; Adivasi; ethnic

East Asia; Asia; parasol; workshop; Matt Hahnewald Photography; Facing the World; photo; image; closeup; street portrait; headshot; indoor; world cultures; cultural; one person; character; people; flash fired; female; ethnic; teeth; horizontal format; human; face; eyes; eye contact; photography; consent; empathy; rapport; portrait; portraiture; environmental portrait; ethnic portrait; travel portrait; travel destination; colour; 4 : 3 aspect ratio; posing; Nikon D3100; Nikkor AF-S 50mm f/1.8G; travel; tourism; colourful; vivid colours; en face; front view; smiling; facial expression; beautiful; Hakka; Taiwan; young adult; girl; Meinong; oil-paper umbrella; tradition; Hakka culture; handpainted; art; artist; painter
Below are three examples for (iii) adding context by focusing on the subject’s facial features:

Matt Hahnewald Photography; Facing the World; photography; photo; image; frame; physiognomy; psychological; spectacular; lively; outstanding; favourite; superior; excellent; interesting; Nikon D3100; Nikkor AF-S 50mm f/1.8G; prime lens; 50mm lens; 4 : 3 aspect ratio; horizontal format; street; portraiture; portrait; closeup; faceshot; tight crop; seven-eighths view; red; outdoor; colour; world cultures; cultural; character; personality; real people; human head; high forehead; receding hairline; human face; painted face; tilaka; third eye; sacred ash; vibhuti; urdhva pundra; abir; human eyes; facial expression; lived-in face; eye contact; full beard; bareheaded; consent; empathy; rapport; respect; encounter; dignity; environmental portrait; travel portrait; Hinduism; Vaishnavism; Vaishnavite sadhu; beggar; Kathmandu; Nepal; one person; old man; posing; authentic; rugged; dignified

Matt Hahnewald Photography; Facing the World; photography; photo; image; face perception; physiognomy; psychological; amazing; spectacular; outstanding; fantastic; favourite; superior; excellent; Nikon D3100; Nikkor AF-S 50mm f/1.8G; prime lens; 50mm lens; 4 : 3 aspect ratio; horizontal format; street; portraiture; portrait; closeup; faceshot; seven-eighths view; outdoor; colour; cultural; character; personality; real people; human head; human face; human eyes; nose; nose piercing; nose jewellery; facial expression; eye contact; tribal ear jewellery; Adivasi; tribal market; Koraput; Orissa; East India; bareheaded; sindoor; consent; empathy; rapport; respect; encounter; ethnic portrait; travel; villager; one person; female; mature woman; posing; authentic; awesome; tribal side bun; three nose rings

Matt Hahnewald Photography; Facing the World; photography; photo; image; frame; educational; amazing; spectacular; outstanding; superior; excellent; interesting; brilliant; Nikon D3100; Nikkor AF-S 50mm f/1.8G; prime lens; 50mm lens; 4 : 3 aspect ratio; horizontal format; street; portraiture; portrait; closeup; headshot; seven-eighths view; outdoor; colour; colourful; world cultures; cultural; character; personality; real people; human head; human face; human eyes; facial expression; lived-in face; wrinkles; eye contact; traditional garment; headscarf; dupatta; headcovering; consent; empathy; rapport; respect; encounter; ethnic portrait; tribal portrait; travel portrait; tribal; Banjara; Hyderabad; Telangana, ethnic; one person; female; old woman; posing; authentic; incredible; exotic; awesome; Lambani; Vanjara; Indian woman; shawl over head; Indian gypsy; silver accessories; India; ethnic; Telangana
Of course, the transition from one described approach to the other is gradual, and two or all three of them can be combined within one photograph:

Matt Hahnewald Photography; Facing the World; photography; photo; image; psychological; amazing; spectacular; outstanding; fantastic; favourite; superior; excellent; magnificent; interesting; inspirational; brilliant; breathtaking; special; Nikon D3100; Nikkor AF-S 50mm f/1.8G; prime lens; 50mm lens; 4 : 3 aspect ratio; horizontal format; street; closeup; headshot; full-face view; body language; squatting; sorting onions; squatting position; outdoor; sunshine; colour; cultural; character; personality; real people; human head; human face; human eyes; deep-set eyes; facial expression; lived-in face; wrinkles; eye contact; headscarf; dupatta; posture; consent; empathy; rapport; respect; encounter; environmental portrait; ethnic portrait; travel; market; market woman; one person; female; old woman; authentic; incredible; grumpy; Bhubaneswar; India; Old Town; busy
Matt Hahnewald Photography; Facing the World; photo; image; closeup; street portrait; headshot; outdoor; world cultures; cultural; one person; character; people; female; adult; ethnic; horizontal format; human; face; eyes; eye contact; photography; consent; empathy; rapport; portrait; portraiture; environmental portrait; ethnic portrait; travel portrait; travel destination; colour; 4 : 3 aspect ratio; posing; Chhairo; Asia; South Asia; Mustang District; Nepal; Tibetan woman; Himalayas; Annapurna Circuit; Nikon D3100; Nikkor AF-S 50mm f/1.8G; trekking; colourful; en face; front view; villager; Tibetan Buddhism; teeth; prayer wheels; depth of field; smiling; shawl; headcovering

Matt Hahnewald Photography; Facing the World; photography; photo; image; psychological; educational; amazing; outstanding; breathtaking; sensational; Nikon D3100; Nikkor AF-S 50mm f/1.8G; prime lens; 50mm lens; 4 : 3 aspect ratio; horizontal format; street; portrait; closeup; full-face view; yellow; outdoor; colour; cultural; character; personality; real people; human head; human face; forehead; sandalwood paste; human eyes; facial expression; eye contact; full beard; grey beard; headwrap; covered head; turban; body language; gesture; consent; empathy; rapport; respect; encounter; relationship; environmental portrait; travel portrait; orange robe; Hinduism; sadhu; temple; Pashupatinath; Kathmandu; Nepal; old man; posing; authentic; rugged; spiritual; yogi; half-length portrait; raised right hand; foot-behind-the-head pose; yoga pose; asana; eka pada sirsasana; mudra gesture; blessing; chandanam
"There is nothing worse than a sharp image of a fuzzy concept."