Tag Archives: Portraits

Behind the Cover: Photographing Super Mario

Like many famous athletes, Italian soccer player Mario Balotelli has developed a reputation for outlandish behavior. But photographer Levon Biss was not worried during his recent TIME International cover shoot with the star, who is currently playing for the British football club Manchester City.

(Read More: Mario Balotelli: The Infamously Mercurial Brilliance of the Soccer Star)

“His personality is very shy, actually,” said Biss. “He wears outrageous clothes and sometimes on the football pitch he does outrageous things, but as a person he is not outrageous, he is very, very shy.”

The shoot did get off to a slightly rocky start when Balotelli arrived at the studio Biss had set up at Manchester City’s training grounds. “He walked in and there were 12 or 13 people in there,” Biss explained. “I think he got quite nervous and walked straight back out again. We had to wait another half-hour for him to come back.”

Despite the delay, the shoot eventually went off without a hitch. To compensate for Balotelli’s discomfort, Biss focused on stylized portraits, rather than action shots. “He looks quite interesting, so you don’t need to do much with him,” said Biss. “He’s got quite a brooding character, so we tried to enhance that with a bit of red lighting and keep the images quite graphic.”

This is not an unusual approach when photographing athletes, who unlike actors and other celebrities, said Biss, are not used to performing for the camera. “These are sports people,” he said. “You have to hinge on what you can do photographically instead of relying on them to come through with a shining personality.”

Biss makes sure to work fast and use a straightforward, no nonsense approach, similar to what his subjects would encounter on the field. Most importantly, Biss, said is keeping the sessions short and sweet.

“They want to be out of there,” said Biss. “If you can get on their side by saying ‘look we’ve got an hour but we can do this in half an hour,’ you are automatically their friend and they will give you what you want straight away.”

Levon Biss is a London-based photographer and regular contributor to TIME.

At the Fights: How Howard Schatz Gets His Best Boxing Shots

In his six-year journey to comprehensively capture the world of professional boxing, Howard Schatz learned that the sport is one of courage, but also of constraints. Boxers risk getting injured, knocked out or killed when they step into the ring, all while navigating limited space, compared to the size of a basketball court or football field. Plus, they’re somewhat limited in their motions, too. “Some sports require several movements, like basketball—players jump, run, turn, pass, shoot—but boxers are essentially just ducking and throwing punches,” Schatz says. “I was interested in the tremendous challenge of making a photograph of boxers because of this limited range of human motion.”

That interest inspired his newly-released tome, At the Fights: Inside the World of Professional Boxing, in which Schatz chronicles the industry and its most prominent players—from boxing champions and club fighters to managers and promoters—over 256 large photographs.

The majority of the photographs were taken in a single frame, even if their special-effects aesthetic suggests otherwise. “I had to find a way to make a photograph that had the energy and power that boxing has,” Schatz says. “I always say that what boxers do has movement and depth, while the resulting image is still and flat.”

To make images that exuded the dynamism inherent in boxing itself, Schatz experimented with flash, lighting, shutter speed—and even threw water, salt and powder on the athletes—to create the stroboscopic effect.

For a portrait of Argentine boxer Sergio Martinez (slide #1), Schatz timed how long it took him to complete two jumps of the rope—.6 seconds—and then set off a strobe light to go off every .01 seconds, creating 60 flashes, while he photographed him. A special light that went off at the half-way mark added extra drama.

In another shoot with Amir Khan, the photographer set up his camera 40-ft. away from the boxer and had an assistant throw salt on him. Schatz then asked Khan to swing at the salt—hard enough to hit his camera—creating a spray effect that resulted in a highly energetic shot.

Schatz began exploring with these different methods after a Sports Illustrated shoot of baseball player Albert Pujols a few years ago. Photo editor Steve Fine had asked him to do a stroboscopic study on the great hitter, and Schatz was disappointed by the fact that he needed to create two frames—one for the bat, and one for the player—for one picture. Ever since, he’s relished at the idea of playing scientist in the studio. “I photograph to surprise, delight and amaze myself, so this constant, unending learning process has been enjoyable,” Schatz says of photographic journey of making the book. “It’s been a phenomenally rich education—a thrilling experience.”

Howard Schatz is a New York-based photographer. See more of his work here.

Vintage Carnival Masks: iPhone portraits by Vee Speers

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Vintage Carnival Masks: iPhone portraits © by Vee Speers

These impromptu portraits feature ordinary and eccentric Parisians wearing vintage hand-painted Carnival masks. Fine-art photographer Vee Speers made this series just for fun — with her iPhone — over the course of a few dinner parties with friends.

The effect of the cartoon-like painted faces on 3D human bodies flattens and expands the images, playing tricks on the eye in a dizzying manner.

See more photos, and read more, in Lens Culture.

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Vintage Carnival Masks: iPhone portraits © by Vee Speers

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Vintage Carnival Masks: iPhone portraits © by Vee Speers

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Vintage Carnival Masks: iPhone portraits © by Vee Speers

Andrew Newson, Seaford

Andrew Newson, Seaford

Andrew Newson

Seaford,
East Sussex, United Kingdom, 2010
From the Portraits series
Website – AndrewNewson.com

Andrew Newson spent some years as a commercial photographer before starting a photography training business in 2008. Developing interesting ways to inspire others and develop their craft is at the core of what he does. Andrew's personal projects range from exploring local landscapes over prolonged periods of time to give a further understanding of the land and our place within it. Andrew also works in more spontaneous ways creating images in everyday situations than ask questions of the viewer.

Back to School: Classroom Portraits by Julian Germain

Regardless of where we grew up, most of us spent many of our formative years sitting in a classroom. Four walls with colorful pictures on them and a teacher at the front. The language, customs and native dress might differ from place to place, but British photographer Julian Germain, who has spent eight years photographing students in classrooms around the world, found the experience of going back-to-school is universal.

His collection, which spans Brazil, Nigeria, Yemen, Russia, Taiwan, England, America and others, provides a window inside the classrooms of the world. It also represents a new vision of the traditional class photo. “Every year, your class is photographed; a photographer comes in, lines you up in almost a military fashion, but in those pictures you never see the classroom,” says Germain. “They are usually made against a brick wall or a curtain or something so you never really get a look at the space. I had this idea to examine the space where kids learn, and at the same time, examine the kids.”

(See more in Reinventing College, TIME’s special package on education)

Germain began taking photos of classrooms in 2004, not long after his daughter started school. He started by photographing a handful of schools in the northeast region of England where he lives. The following year for a trip to Argentina for a separate assignment his project took an international turn. “It had not been planned in advance, it’s something that happened very organically,” he says. “At a certain point it became clear it would be interesting to photograph schools anywhere I could.” Some of those schools are now part of a book aptly titled, Classroom Portraits.

Education, as Germain notes, is not often the subject of art. “It’s amazing, if you look around museums and things, school is never there,” he says. “Artists frequently go into schools to make art with the children, but never really to make work with education as the theme.” To that end, Germain carefully choreographed each class, just as he would any other subject. He took his photos in the last 15 minutes of the lesson. He made sure each child was visible, but otherwise left the room just as it was. Since he was dealing with often squirrelly children, he didn’t have much time. In the days of film, he says he would only shoot between two and four exposures. Now, thanks to digital, he takes about 10. “They just can’t concentrate for longer than that,” he says.

Unlike your typical school photographer, Germain never yelled, “say cheese.” “I don’t tell them to do anything,” he says. “I just tell them that the exposure is quite long and they need to be ready. I never tell them to smile or adopt a certain mood. I just tell them they need to be ready.” The result is a classroom full of students who appear just as they would to a teacher standing in front of the class delivering a lecture. In fact, Germain thinks of the camera as the teacher. “It’s not that they don’t look happy, they just aren’t grinning like a cheshire cat—they are paying attention to the ‘teacher’,” he says. Which is why you won’t find a teacher in his photos—he prefers to only photograph the students. “I found if teachers are in, they dominate,” he says. “I like the idea that the images are very democratic. I give everybody space. As soon as the teacher goes in there it kind of messes that up. I wanted to make it all about the kids.”

Making the students the focus gives them a sort of power. Because he photographed the children at eye level, when flipping through his book hundreds of eyes stare back at you. “I find that quite challenging,” he says. Indeed, he says, the whole world children inhabit has been built by adults—the education system they are in, the clothes they’re wearing, the textbooks, their notebooks, pencils, pen, the blackboard, the furniture. “It says to me, we are responsible for the world they’re in,” he says. “There’s a lot of mumbling and grumbling and despair about what young people are like, but who’s responsible for that? We are.”

Classroom Portraits was published this summer by Prestel.

Kayla Webley is a staff writer at TIME.

Sylvain Granjon

Sylvain Granjon has just opened an exhibition at Galeria Tagomago that will travel to both gallery locations in Barcelona and Paris. The exhibit runs throught October 20th in Barcelona and moves to Paris from November 15th-18th.

Sylvain is a French artist who comes from the world of the circus and entertainment. After more than 20 years performing across the world in a number of street theater festivals, Sylvain now creates his magic with a camera, specializing in portraits and constructed realities. I am featuring a series of his daughter, Douce Amère, that is simply charming in it’s exploration of portraiture, humor, and appreciation for childish things.

DOUCE AMÈRE

I come from the entertainment world. I have been an entertainer for 20 years. I would say I’m an eccentric more than a clown.

This artificial world has been mine for all that time.
When I photograph my daughter, I photograph myself.
Her direct look has shaken my adult certainties. What I see in her eyes challenges me, as a grown child, as a father…
She seems to be asking me : “What have you become?”
When I portray my daughter there is a seriousness at odds 
with her young age.
I try to evoke the adult’s desperate quest for the mythical image of his own childhood; the source of all our emotions.
Sylvain Granjon, 2012

Chloe Borkett

All images © Chloe Borkett

Chloe Borkett’s vision is sensitive to the melancholia of the world. Her project Stories East of the River is a delicate yet direct document on the lives of the younger generation in small republic of Transdniester in the region of Moldova. Portraits, punctuated with lyrical details and brooding landscapes, capture a sense of an uncertain future for a generation whose identity and solid basis for growth is riddled with doubt. Sitters stare into space or look directly back at the viewer as if searching for something positive with bold yet concerned expressions.

Says Borkett: “The young are deeply proud to be Russian but are starting to question the tiny Republic’s success and the implications on their futures. International trade is restricted; jobs and opportunities are limited and on-going difficulties with obtaining expensive visas, limits economic migration.”

Borkett’s strength is in her beautiful use of colour to convey a sense of the story without either artistic indulgence or hard, objective, journalistic tactics.

Born in 1978, she graduated with a degree in documentary photography from the University of Wales, Newport and is now based in London. She has been involved in various exhibitions including the Ian Parry exhibition in 2011. She continues to pursue projects concerning social issues with a focus on human rights. To view more work from this series click here.

Chloe Borkett

All images © Chloe Borkett

Chloe Borkett’s vision is sensitive to the melancholia of the world. Her project Stories East of the River is a delicate yet direct document on the lives of the younger generation in small republic of Transdniester in the region of Moldova. Portraits, punctuated with lyrical details and brooding landscapes, capture a sense of an uncertain future for a generation whose identity and solid basis for growth is riddled with doubt. Sitters stare into space or look directly back at the viewer as if searching for something positive with bold yet concerned expressions.

Says Borkett: “The young are deeply proud to be Russian but are starting to question the tiny Republic’s success and the implications on their futures. International trade is restricted; jobs and opportunities are limited and on-going difficulties with obtaining expensive visas, limits economic migration.”

Borkett’s strength is in her beautiful use of colour to convey a sense of the story without either artistic indulgence or hard, objective, journalistic tactics.

Born in 1978, she graduated with a degree in documentary photography from the University of Wales, Newport and is now based in London. She has been involved in various exhibitions including the Ian Parry exhibition in 2011. She continues to pursue projects concerning social issues with a focus on human rights. To view more work from this series click here.