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This is (not) Yan

When you want to photograph what you can't see of a person

This is (not) Yan.

I didn't know whether to show these photos here (in my annual challenges) or on my blog and in the end I decided to show them here because although I feel comfortable when it comes to photography, yesterday was a challenge. I had to take a portrait of Yan, a girl I don't know and in a setting where there is nothing but tables for students and the lighting is more than bad. Quite a challenge.

Yan is a young, nice and pretty girl, but how do you portray someone like that? How would other photographers do it? How could I do it? What is she really like? What am I looking for as a photographer? What would she be looking for when being portrayed?...ummmm, I seem to have a lot of questions. Where the fuck should I start?

I'm one of those who believe that to take a portrait of someone it's best to have a few words beforehand, to make both photographer and model feel comfortable as both start with a bit of discomfort, one in case the result isn't good and the other in case it's not going to turn out as well as expected. It's obvious that Yan is young and beautiful, that's obvious, but how can you photograph what you can't see? How can I photograph Yan without knowing the time I have and without knowing her? Portraits start with a search for communication, (I reminded myself) it's a good way to see the model from all sides, so we started to talk and so I started to "see" her from all sides.

Yan's sides

The photo booth.

I've always liked the idea of the photo booth, it's a booth that every now and then you find in the metro stations or anywhere else and that can be used to take 2 types of photos.

  • Serious passport photos

  • Funny photos while fooling around with friends.

I don't know who invented the photo booth but I want to thank him, I love the concept and it's the only thing I had clear for Yan's session, I wanted the result to be a photo booth style, but in black and white and in square format.

After asking Yan thousands of questions (then I can't explain why I get hoarse every day because I can't stop talking), she told me that:

She was a very thoughtful, funny, cheerful, funny, curious, right to be angry from time to time, disciplined, orderly girl....

how could I photograph all that in my photo did she feel at that moment? It's one thing to be funny, it's another to be funny posing for a photographer without being a model.

She felt nervous, uneasy, stressed but I think she had confidence.

how could she add her feelings to that photo booth?

Photo 1. She fells nervous and stressed

She feels nervous

This is a slow shutter speed photo while she moves her head, this movement is how the photographer wants to make the viewer see the model's discomfort at the beginning of the session. It is not a normal portrait, nor a pretty one, and the model probably doesn't even like it, but I wanted to photograph what you can't see. Yan is beautiful, and that will be seen in all the photos, but her nerves could never be photographed.

Her personality

Here is a series of portraits about her personality, intelligence, joy, sadness when you are sad, anger, aggression, affection, humour, thoughts, creativity ....

Just as we would have done in a photathon, when paying 50HK$ and closing the curtain we feel comfortable.

Finally, I wanted to do something different, I wanted to put everything in the same photo and what I came up with was to do a double exposure on camera. Yan already felt much more comfortable with me and I asked her to do two poses, one with her back to me and the other in half profile looking at the camera. With this photograph I wanted to show not only Yan's beauty but also that we often go through other, sadder moments.

I still think that it is better to photograph that which is not seen.

Thanks for being my model Yan, I promise you that one day we will prepare a much better and more prepared session.

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