Late last year, I decided to get into portrait photography as well. I had a vision of portraits, that would draw inspiration from street photography and have a similar look and feel. I also love the idea of cinematic street photography, which is always a hard concept to execute. In portraiture, there are so much more things that you can be in control of, so I decided to add the cinematic approach to the portrait project, now that I have the opportunity to implement it naturally.

Specific concept

I’m compelled by the idea of portraits, that would look like still frames from an old movie. Something that doesn’t look like an obvious pose. I’d love to create a scene where the photographer appears to be completely absent. So no eye contact and very subtle and natural gestures and poses. No smiling either.

I’ve done few shoots already and the project is now really starting to take shape. It has been challenging to define in concrete terms, how to exactly execute the visions. But as usual, things start to roll off more easily after you just get the hang of it. After few initial shoots, I’m really starting to detect, what the techniques are for constructing the kind of image I’m after.

I’ve met with few models and had awesome time shooting with them. It’s still winter, but we are heading towards spring, which means more light. I’m so tired of the winter already and I really want to shoot in beautiful, bright light for a change.

Dis-Moi Quelque Chose De Gentil (2018) Olympus OM-2n, 35mm f2.8, Ilford HP5+ 400 @ 800. Model: Sinella.

Last week I did a shoot with a Finnish model Sinella, who was absolutely perfect for this shoot. This image above is my favourite photo of the entire shoot. I absolutely love the atmosphere, lighting, composition, the look in her eyes… just everything. This is exactly the kind of stuff that gets me excited.

It was a beautiful day. It was sunny, but a bit overcasty. As you can see, the light doesn’t create too hard shadows, because it’s diffused by the delicate cloud coverage. It creates a very soft and pleasing lighting. It’s almost like cotton-candy. Just perfect! You can’t probably tell, but it was very cold too. It’s after all February, which is usually the coldest winter month. It was -10c that day! Not the nicest conditions to arrange a shoot, but hey — you’ll have to suffer for art.

I named the image “Dis-Moi Quelque Chose De Gentil” after a track from “…And God Created Woman” original soundtrack. The song has just the kind of mood I think of when I look at this image. The title doesn’t have any deeper correlation, other than just sounding exactly how the photo looks. At least in my mind.

And once again — I just have to take my hat off for Olympus lenses. I shot this with a OM Zuiko 35mm f2.8 lens. (Yes, a vintage lens of course.) I paid something like 30€ for it, so you’d never expect to see this kind of rendering with an affordable purchase like this. But once again, the image quality is top notch and 100% vintage credible. That combined to the beautiful image quality of Ilford HP5+ creates a mood that it’s very hard to simulate digitally.

Homage to Cindy Sherman’s Untitled Film Stills?

Cindy Sherman: Untitled Film Stills

Cindy Sherman did a portrait series during 1977—1980 called Untitled Film Stills. The series has a similar kind of concept. One fellow photographer asked whether I’m drawing inspiration from Sherman’s work and the answer is that I’m indeed taking inspiration from it — from now on. To be honest, I wasn’t aware of the project prior to this, even though, It is a really well known one. I was almost embarrassed to admit, that I wasn’t aware of it before. But at the same time, I was really excited to learn that a true legend had a very similar idea. In a way I’m kind of proud of myself of ending up with a such a specific concept on my own, without the awareness of the work by an actually famous photograper. I’ve seen Cindy Sherman’s work in books, but never paid attention to the concept, thus not connecting the dots. Geez — just how uncivilised you have to be to miss out something like this! But yeah, to answer the question: no, this isn’t a homage to Untitled Film Stills as such, but now that it has been pointed out to me, I can’t see how it could not inspire me. It seems that the deeper you look into the history of photography, the more idols you find.