Join Paul Taggart for an in-depth discussion in this video Taking a portrait of the subject, part of Shooting a Photo Essay: An Artist at Work.
So I really want to do a portrait of Kevin, something a little bit more formal, a little bit more staged. And right now with the sun the way it is it's at one of the best times of day for me to do this because I've got some interesting light. But it's also one of the worst times of day to be doing it because that light is going to go down below the horizon here any minute and I haven't organizaed anything yet. So I've got a lead on a guy who can run this forklift. And I want to use this forklift to get up high, and shoot down for a different vantage point of Kevin. So he's surrounded by all these really cool rocks we got out here. but I've only got a couple minutes to do this.
So I gotta kind of get on the ball and make this thing happen. (SOUND). Cool. >>Probably want to stand on there. (SOUND). >> Or that. >>That's better. >> So environmental portraits are any time you have a subject that you're shooting and you put them within a space that usually says something about that character, or about that person. and with Kevin it was obvious, you know, I want to put him with his raw materials. When I'm shooting a story, I try to include a whole different range of types of photography.
Whether it's landscape or portraiture or environmental portraiture or detail shots or macro photography. Just so you get a whole variety of images that you can play with later. So I usually almost always include an envirionmental portrait. And I'd actually say in my work life about 80% of the work that I do is environmental portrait based stuff for editorial publications. So, it's something if you aren't already doing, you should be learning how to do and just get as fascinated with it as I am. because there's nothing than better than, like, finding a really interesting person and putting them in their really interesting space.
All right, so, we've lost the light over here so let's come over here where these rocks are. I think I was about 10 minutes behind on the light that I wanted. but that's no reason to just scrap the shoot. so I still did it, and we just kind of worked around it, and I had him stand in a different place than I really would have wanted him to. but the great things about cool creative people is they kind of make the, the moment happen. And so, I mean, I told Kevin to stand in one place. And then I turn around, next thing I know, he's climbing up the side of the rock. And he's jumping on top of things, and he's walking around. And what he was doing in the places he was standing was way more interesting than the light ever would have been.
And so you know, you, it's nice to have an idea what you're going to do, but then when the moment starts happening, you just run with it, and great things are going to happen. (SOUND) Do me a favor and look out over there again. Perfect. A note about sort of the process here is this morning I was walking around here doing the tour, and I saw a bunch of cool rocks. I'm like that's neat, and I saw a forklift and I'm like that looks cool. And it's like if you have access to these things you might as well use them. so sometimes it's worth taking a little bit of a risk and climbing up on a forklift and having it go all the way as high as it can.
You know, be as safe as you can but it's a whole new vantage point and that's one of those things. That's like sometimes you want to kneel down to shoot and if you can get high and you have access to a forklift you use it. And you're going to get more interesting shots and more dynamic images that people are going to relate to. and also the great thing about having the vantage point up there is we really get to see Art City which really is like a city. You've got all these little sort of village spaces that people are working. And from up there you can really see that. so I think it was a success, and the great thing about having a subject for two days is if it wasn't the sun is going to go down again tomorrow and we can try it again.
I think we got it. That was great, I appreciate it.
Paul, whose work has appeared in publications such the New York Times and National Geographic, shares insights into how he prepares for an assignment, how he engages his subject, and how he takes advantage of unpredictable and unforeseen situations. The course concludes with a look at how the final essay might be sequenced and distributed.