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Thread: 2 Questions re Location Portraiture

  1. #1
    Exploring Large Format Exploring Large Format's Avatar
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    2 Questions re Location Portraiture

    Seeking insights on two questions. First: on making location portraits of many folks in one session. Second: on portrait tips for older models.

    I've somehow convinced a local nursing home to let me volunteer as a LF photographer of their residents. They have, understandably, very rigid Covid guidelines, but they nonetheless jumped at my request. They opened up the home to visitors about a month ago after a year of lockdown, and the residents are really needing human contact/interaction with the outside world. I brought my camera/tripod to the interview, and the whole spectacle of large format photography was appealing as it is an event in itself as you well know! Their chief objective is interaction with as many folks as possible. They really are seeking genuine connections. Without interaction, we all recede is how I understood their situation. They will take any interaction offered up, and they viewed this as a performance as much as photography.

    My plan is to make LF portraits, but to also use 35mm film (with motor drive) and Polaroids with a souped-up SX-70. My objectives are to serve their needs for fun interaction and connection while taking advantage of my opportunity for getting lower-stress portraiture practice. As a bonus, they might even help me out with some supply costs. The 35mm and Polaroids are for speed and instant photos they can keep.

    Any insights on making fairly rapid portraits on location, one after the other? The chief consideration is safety. I want to be sure to observe a Photography Hippocratic Oath, if you will. Ambient light outdoors, at least at first. Thinking of a V-Flat for fill light when the outdoor light is harsh.

    I'm new to most of this. Been practicing LF on family and friends, but Covid pinched the practice. And, all that was a rather methodical plodding around in my garage/studio. I am semi-retired, so flexible in my time. I can make multiple visits. But never having worked with groups, I think I'm most seeking any help on work flow, managing unexposed/exposed film, the practicalities of keeping all the pieces simple. I was considering using a string and ball as a focusing aid, but due to Covid, I probably won't. Need to keep us all distanced and not touching the same objects.

    Also, there is film development and printing. IF they can pay, I'd send to a lab. If not, I'll be doing darkroom for LF. I'm new at this too, so can use the experience. I can scan 35mm, so easy there.

    Also, any thoughts on minimizing my liability? They are open to a contract to protect all parties. I have researched this, so know the basics. But any special insights welcomed.

    Second, specific tips for making portraits of older folks?


    I am planning to use Sinar Norma with Sinar shutter and 180mm and 300mm Tessar lenses in-barrel with f/4.5 for easier focusing. I have a few lenses in shutters if needed. Using Zone VI tripod for weight stability and for the ambiance of a somewhat old-timey getup.

    I'll not be able to publicly display the photos without express permission due to strict HIPPA constraints. That said, they also want photos for use around the facility.

    Having witnessed how music can penetrate "the wall" for a family member with dementia, I'm also hoping that photos might function in a similar way. We'll see.

    Thanks to all for any insights or suggestions!

  2. #2
    Tin Can's Avatar
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    Re: 2 Questions re Location Portraiture

    You are volunteering to be entertainment

    Admirable

    I did shoot portraits of my parents in their chosen 3 steps of degradation, they waved me off

    I am not ever going near another 'home' especially if I am on stage

    All my 'relatives' are gone, meaning 6 ft under

    I suggest, really simple gear, meaning Digi and a battery printer

    and go slow, do one person a day

    they are still people

    good luck
    2022

  3. #3

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    Re: 2 Questions re Location Portraiture

    No suggestions except just go for it. Clearly youíve done some thinking about it. I duff my cap to you. Great source of engagement for the residents and a great source of practice for you. Sounds like a great plan and photography functions best when itís a two way street. Best of luck with it.


    Sent from my iPad using Tapatalk Pro

  4. #4

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    Re: 2 Questions re Location Portraiture

    Once did a vaguely similar project. First I'd stick to one camera and one lens. Standardize the lighting to cut down the setup time. Before photographing the subjects, sit down and talk with them for maybe 15 minutes. If possible take along a picture of your parents. Sometimes you will have a story to tell them and showing them a picture of your parents will get their respect. I agree with doing one person per day. In a closed community like the one you are shooting in, stories about you will quickly be passed on.
    Good Luck

  5. #5

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    Re: 2 Questions re Location Portraiture

    Regarding ligthting outdoors, adn guessing that some will not wish to stand, or may be on wheels, I would consider places where I might use an overhead black gobo, maybe 4x4. If the light is direct sun overhead, more or less, this will cut this and leave diffuse reflected light coming front and from the sides, which will give you a god start. You can limit it on one side with a drop-down black cloth.

    Clearly, you need to secure this well, speaking of liability. Otherwise, I would suggest sticking to open shade. Perhaps a friend of the resident would be willing to hold a reflector for you, when useful.
    Philip Ulanowsky

    Sine scientia ars nihil est. (Without science/knowledge, art is nothing.)
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  6. #6

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    Re: 2 Questions re Location Portraiture

    This puts me in mind of a Toronto Physician who took portraits of his patients with his 4x5 film camera. Ultimately he was shown in the Royal Ontario Museum, not too shabby! His printmaker was in Toronto, a world renown chap who sometimes is found here. I got in trouble touching a print with my bare fingers.

    https://www.rom.on.ca/en/about-us/ne...its-by-dr-mark
    https://www.pressreader.com/canada/t...82286726108180
    I would be very sure to get individual consents, involve next of kin. Beware of issues around dementia consent. You may think the prints will reside in your sock drawer, but things happen, temptations occur. Maybe contact Dr. Mark Nowaczynski for advice.

  7. #7
    Peter De Smidt's Avatar
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    Re: 2 Questions re Location Portraiture

    So, I've done a lot of this, although admittedly not with LF. (I did the marketing photography for a big skilled nursing facility for a few years.) So, have everything worked out in advance. Don't be metering, setting shutter speeds, with a subject in place. That should all be worked out first. You have a very short time. Interact in a fun manner. There will be staff around. They need releases signed if they're to use the photos. Have the staff get them signed. If you want to use the photos, you should get copies of the releases.

    If you do this commercially, then you need liability insurance. So, I wouldn't do it commercially.

    May tomorrow be a better day.

  8. #8

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    Re: 2 Questions re Location Portraiture

    Making photographs with a 35mm with a motor drive, and Polaroid, and LF says that you haven't decided what is the creative intent of your work. Each of those modalities and processes produces an entirely different product, especially in portraiture. It's the same as many other creative decisions we make - should the prints be matte, glossy, full-bleed or with big margins, large or small, color or B&W? Those decisions should be guided by your intent - what you want the viewer to feel and experience when they see the image. So, decide that first, then choose your equipment. If you just want to practise, do so on your family and your neighbors, without taking advantage of a vulnerable population

  9. #9
    Jim Jones's Avatar
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    Re: 2 Questions re Location Portraiture

    The subjects in this project would be better served by digital photography if the photographer is quite adept with that technology.

  10. #10
    Peter De Smidt's Avatar
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    Re: 2 Questions re Location Portraiture

    "taking advantage of a vulnerable population"

    I'm going to disagree with that characterization. As I said before, I spent a bunch of years doing a lot of this professionally, and my wife has spent her career as a therapist in a skilled nursing facility. Many residents will be thrilled that you are interested in them, and they will love the whole experience, assuming you don't take too long, and if you're friendly and upbeat. Sure, some won't want to be involved, but that's easy to tell, and then you simply respect their wishes.





    May tomorrow be a better day.

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