Portraits Assignment 1: Edward Hopper

I'm not completely done with all the exercises, but have already started doing some thinking on how I would like to approach the first assignment. The idea is to create 5 to 7 different portraits, each with their own style and setting. Since I thought I needed to investigate different styles of portraits in other arts, I have been looking at a lot of  painters and look at how they approach their subjects, lighting, color, etc. I find myself a big fan of all of them, especially now that I'm becoming aware of how much thinking and techniques it takes to make a good portrait. But anyway, I'm starting off with Edward Hopper, who even though he was a painter, uses a very photographic style in his work. 

I'll take a look at a few images and just describe what I notice and how I could use that in my own photo taking. 

 Edward Hopper (1962),  New York Office  [oil on canvas] [online image]. Montgomery: Museum of Fine Arts. Available from: http://www.wikipaintings.org/en/edward-hopper/new-york-office (Accessed 12 November 2013)

Edward Hopper (1962), New York Office [oil on canvas] [online image]. Montgomery: Museum of Fine Arts. Available from: http://www.wikipaintings.org/en/edward-hopper/new-york-office (Accessed 12 November 2013)

In the majority of Hopper's portraits he takes an outside perspective, showing the building the subject is standing in, from the outside, or at least showing the outside space of the place the subject is in. This puts the subject in a larger context and gives the image a mysterious feel. Every image shows that there's a lot more to investigate. I also notice how Hopper shows how the light from the different spaces interact with each other and influence each other. Mainly through the use of dark and light spaces, but also through the shadows and change of color that each different type of lighting brings along. 

 Edward Hopper (1940), Room in New York [oil on canvas] [online image]. Lincoln: Sheldon Museum of Art. Available from:http://www.wikipaintings.org/en/edward-hopper/not_detected_235607 (Accessed on 12 November 2013)

Edward Hopper (1940), Room in New York [oil on canvas] [online image]. Lincoln: Sheldon Museum of Art. Available from:http://www.wikipaintings.org/en/edward-hopper/not_detected_235607 (Accessed on 12 November 2013)

All subjects in Hopper's paintings are not or very absent minded interacting with either the painter or with each other. They are all far away in their own thoughts or activities. None of the subjects in Hopper's paintings look straight at the painter, except for his self portrait. This makes the viewer feel even more as an outsider and alien from the scene that is looked at. It triggers one's curiosity and has a suspicious feel to it. 

 Edward Hopper (1942),  Nighthawks  [oil on canvas] [online image]. Chicago: Art Institute of Chicago. Available from: http://www.wikipaintings.org/en/edward-hopper/nighthawks (Accessed 12 November 2013)

Edward Hopper (1942), Nighthawks [oil on canvas] [online image]. Chicago: Art Institute of Chicago. Available from: http://www.wikipaintings.org/en/edward-hopper/nighthawks (Accessed 12 November 2013)

I find that Hopper's compositions are all very strong and thought out. The uses of lines and curves really draws the viewer into the image and lets it look around. The use of color and light accentuates that even more. While looking at the image, one discovers more and more details that add to the narrative of the image.  

 

In order to photograph in Hopper's style, I have tried to use these elements in my lighting, compositions and post processing. When reviewing my images, I realized that Hopper uses a lot of bright light, even though a lot of scenes are taken in the dark. At first I had taken this image, which in my idea reflected the light, but it turned out to be too diffused (although when I look at the Nighthawks one could say that the light in the diner is also pretty diffused). Besides that, I didn't like the way my model's face looks regarding the color of her skin and shadows.

portrait-hopper-2.jpg

The next image was taken in the pool, I like the shadows of the door and how the subject is sort of in between inside and outside. I do think that the lights are not bright enough to portray the feeling that I'd like to get. Besides that, the camera was too much focused on the subject to show enough of the surroundings. For example, it would have been nice to have more view on the pool and the light. Maybe if taken from an other angle it would have had a better effect.

portrait-hopper-4.jpg

The final image is the one that I find most successful. In post process I have adapted the exposure a bit, cloned out some distracting objects and a few more adaptations. I do think the image has a very painterly effect that goes a little bit in Hopper's realm. Also in this case, I would have liked to have a different lens and a bit bigger living room so that I could have shown the window, the shadows of the table more and been able to put the model out of the middle of the frame.  The image is still too dark for Hopper's standards but if I crank up the exposure the image gets too grainy. 

portrait-hopper-5.jpg

I really enjoy doing these kind of exercises. It helps so much in defining why an image looks the way it does and knowing how you want an image to look like when producing it.