About a month ago I decided to make a little portrait project.
I spend a lot of my time photographing people who are trained to be in front of the camera, have pro stylists and MUA’s to make them look amazing, and essentially get paid to bring out the best in every look and pose. And I love it! But I wanted to do something focusing on the un polished side of my photography that would contain a little more feeling.

I have been shooting portraits professionally for a long while but generally when paid for the image I am shooting to create a story or effect that the subject wishes to bring out in the images. It is challenging and one of my favourite things to do. But for this project I wanted a less constructed feel. I wanted to showcase the people in a way that would be almost as if a friend had just taken their photo. Less posing and more feeling.


I decided to start each shoot by not even getting my camera out. Just my note book and a pen.
I would chat to the subject for about 10 mins. Ask about their work, their contact points, the passions and ask them to write out the quote that most inspires them.
Then once they were just chatting away I would start grabbing pictures.
I have found that one of the best photographs I got was after asking a question about their passion which required them to pause and construct an answer.

Talking about their favourite thing brings a touch of a smile to their face and having to think about an answer gives them a more pensive look plus allowing me a moment to take a picture.
Questions like (If you had to name the most under rated author, poet, actor, or whatever their field) are perfect for this. Mentally making a list takes a second or two and gives me just long enough to shoot a picture where they are lost in thought and not concentrating on the camera at all.

They may not be as polished as my studio or professional portrait work. But they cover a different need for me. They allow me to document an emotion, a passion, and a personal drive that have to be shown organically.
You could pose them and make them follow direction until you have the shot…but then it isn’t really them any more. It’s your impression of them. And that can quite often be just as constructed as a fashion shoot.

James Bartlett


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