Tell a person’s story, or at least a part of it, in a photograph.
In essence, that’s how I view the genre of environmental portraiture.
These portraits are created in the subject’s environment; at their home, workplace or where they spend their time in recreation. The idea is to tell something about them and their life.
Each individual is more than a copy of their physical likeness or features.
Photographing people in their natural surroundings allows the portrait to portray the essence of who they are. Although these portraits are posed, they fit somewhere between being candid and the studio-style portrait.
The photographer should take some time to get to know a bit about the person and how they spend their time. This is done to get more of an idea of the subject’s personality and how to capture it.
Choosing the location is important. As stated earlier, it can help tell the story of who the person being photographed is. Care must be taken that the location doesn’t dominate the image and become the subject itself.
Subtle props and appropriate attire to the environment also assist in the creation of a successful environmental portrait.
The self-portrait below is one example of environmental portraiture. It tells the story of my interest in photography and gives insight into the fact that I work in digital format.
For those who know me well the glint of reflected light to the left of the monitor will remind them of the coffee cup that is, invariably, with me.
My own preference for environmental portraiture exists because of the opportunity it provides to give much more than an image of how someone looked at one point in time. An enduring story of that individual’s life and existence is created for generations to come learn and enjoy.
This is the kind of portrait that becomes a family heirloom.
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Norm Hamilton is a freelance writer and photographer based in Whitehorse.