On my recent trip to America I spent some time in the Art Institute of Chicago. The Institute has a wide ranging collection of contemporary painting, photography, sculpture and installation pieces. I was particularly taken with the work of photographer Rineke Dijkstra. I have read about her work in photography blogs and it was good to see many of her portraits together full size and in one large gallery space. The larger format work certainly helps the viewer to appreciate the detail that has been recorded using large format cameras. I have read that the ungainly poses of the young subjects taken at the beach mimic a 19th century method of portraiture - mainly that the slow shutter speeds used at that time required the sitter to be frozen, sometimes using clamps and head rests to achieve an unblurred image. Djikstras has taken this idea of an uncomfortable and frozen position and used it in her beach portraits. This is in an attempt to stop the sitter from projecting a false pose that we all tend to use whenever a camera is present. The photographer in her attempt to capture a true likeness is using this method to expose a hidden truth in the sitter. Djikstra's other work has involved subjects at a moment of heightened emotion such as matadors shortly after leaving a bullring.
I also spent some time inside the gallery practising my people shots for the course work. The hovering gallery attendants were particularly useful in this respect. In this Djikstra image I managed to get an interesting reflection as the attendant with his arms held to his side seems to be almost mirroring the awkward pose of the young woman.
The uncluttered gallery space is a good place to practise with balance between people and simple objects.
The people also are generally absorbed in the work they are viewing and can take up interesting and unconscious positions.
The hands on the hip thing is quite popular...