With the classic portrait I want to interpret selected & a willing model, the next stage is to plan how this will be done.
The first consideration is lighting with the most important aspect being recreating the chiaroscuro within the original image.
The other is capturing ‘catchlight’ in Shoresh’s eyes, which in the original looks like this:
The main issue with regards to lighting is the actual light source. I could utilise a candle, but I don’t think a naked flame is a very safe option within the studio setting. However, I think a light placed at the same angle as the candle could get the same effect. I could also look at using various coloured gels to use in front of the light to get the required tone.
The other thought I have is to use the glow of a mobile phone to create a contemporary interpretation of the candle. I did mention to Zig the possibility of this. He said that a few photographers had used this idea already. If the camera is set up on a tripod with a long exposure, it could give some interesting results. I did have a hunt for some online but couldn’t find anything specific, but it will be worth trying this out in the studio. The other consideration for this is the recreation of colours. The light from a phone or PC is quite a harsh blue-tone light, whereas the colours within classic paintings are quite warm, especially when lit with candlelight.
The next aspects to be considered are clothing & accessories. During the previous session, Shoresh & I discussed what he should be wearing. Shoresh is Kurdish, so I thought it would be appropriate for him to bring in some traditional items of clothing. He was happy to oblige.
What I have noticed in classic portrait painting is the richness in colour & details of the textures. These are some close ups of the original painting:
Will be interesting to see both colours & textures of Shoresh’s choice of clothing to see if I can achieve this effect.
With regards to accessories, I do have a candle & stick which can be used. Am hoping that the melted wax won’t break off in transit!
It’s also important for me to include items that are relevant to Shoresh’s life. This is a tradition within classic portraits & can be seen within one of my favourites, Holbein’s The Ambassadors.
This painting is on display at the National Gallery and depicts two wealthy, educated & powerful young men. According the gallery’s website, the picture is:
“In a tradition showing learned men with books and instruments. The objects on the upper shelf include a celestial globe, a portable sundial and various other instruments used for understanding the heavens and measuring time. Among the objects on the lower shelf is a lute, a case of flutes, a hymn book, a book of arithmetic and a terrestrial globe.
Certain details could be interpreted as references to contemporary religious divisions. The broken lute string, for example, may signify religious discord, while the Lutheran hymn book may be a plea for Christian harmony.”
I also observed this in a few of the classic paintings in the National Gallery where items are included within the portraits to convey particular messages.
At the time of writing , I sent a message to Shoresh asking him to bring in some suitable accessories. I also found these in my home & thought they may play a part in the final image:
While researching classic portraiture, I looked at the National Gallery website for inspiration. One aspect that jumped out was within the text on Room 12 that features Northern Italian Portraiture 1510–1580:
“Regardless of the identity of the sitter, the primary function of a portrait was to capture likeness and inner virtue, denoting that the sitter was worthy of the honour of being portrayed and in time, remembered.”
If I can just capture Shoresh’s essence, I’ll be a happy photographer.
Criteria Ref: P1, P2, P3 & P4.