Fanny Lelièvre

Fanny Lelièvre


by Fanny Lelièvre (France)

Fanny Lelievre 33 ans DA / Graphiste Photographe amateur. C’est une recherche d’écriture photographique personnelle et l’envie d’expérimenter le lien qui existe entre le sujet et le photographe, dans d’autres conditions que celles de la photo de rue que je connais davantage, qui m’amène à ce workshop avec Richard Dumas.

Portfolio from the Portrait workshop with Richard Dumas, October 2014.

Written review by ANDREAS J. HIRSCH,
Independent curator, writer and photographer

In her set of 12 photographs, Fanny Lelièvre displays different approaches she takes on portrait photography. While the 12 photographs do not form a series, they may be structured along certain distinctions between them. One that immediately becomes appearant is the glance of the eyes of the people portrayed. Almost all of them glance aside, some even seem to turn away from the camera.

Only in images 5 and 9 do they look at us. When we see them looking at us, their emotions become more easily readable. This may be considered an advantage when grasping a person through a portrait photograph, but it at the same time makes the expression easier to read which includes any forced or "acted" emotions. In this set the portraits where we do not meet the eye of the portrayed turn out stronger and more subtle in the play of emotions.

There exists a tendency among curators and editors, who look at portfolios, to demand consistent series of images or projects to be presented to them, not individual images. This tendency may be questionable, but it does not come without reason, when considering exhibitions and publications they key ways of getting attention for your photographs. Also does the series or project add more layers of narration and meaning to the set of images, which a simple best-of-collection could offer.

If we apply this approach to the images submitted by Fanny Lelièvre here, we might select the first three photographs, numbered 1 to 3. Not because they are the first in this set, but because they seem to me the strongest ones in the entire set and they show the potential to work as individual photographs as well as when seen in context, as a triplet that is in this case.

In all three photographs the person is not looking at us. There clearly is quite strong emotion there, although it remains somewhat enigmatic, which I would consider as a key quality. In terms of composition and the work with light and shadow they offer different approaches, which all work nicely. The compositions are strong and clear, they help create a certain tension. The way the light is used – on the face only, or the arm in the foreground or on the background – supports the forming of a mood in the picture.

There is relatively little to be seen in the background. We learn very little about the context of the person portrayed, but just enough to make us curious. We can guess the structure of a wall, see what might be a sany beach of some entirely different kind of landscape or perceive traces of nature, a bush maybe in the background. Giving the viewer just enough to spark the imagination – this is done very well here. It carries the abovementioned enigmatic quality further until it almost borders on the narrative. We start imagining stories behind the photographs and this is the best thing that can happen.

Singling out those three photographs does not mean that the other images do not share some of the qualities mentioned here, but those three pictures combine all of them and so turn out the strongest ones in the set. From those three we could build further, imagine a series that strives to go along those lines and to refine those qualities ever more. Working on such a series, which I would clearly recommend, does not mean to force this "series"-thinking on the photographer for all her future work, but to serve as an exercise in order to sharpen the sense of the qualities perceived.

Consequentially try to pick out only the strongest images for a project or portfolio, only those who really work – and discard anything that might be just good enough, even if you feel personally attached to it for some reason. As they say in this often quoted rule for editing texts: "Kill your darlings!"

Take time to select your models, find out which person might be right for your kind of photography. And stay with reduction, regarding the carefully chosen settings as well as clothing, etc. Ask yourself, where does the emotion sit in the images? It will not be in a single spot, but in a combination of many factors, some of which I tried to address before. Capturing the emotion is also about "seeing" it with one's eyes closed, practically as well as metaphorically speaking.

This is also about sensing the person in front of your camera, given her or him the feeling of being at ease with you, ultimately being themselves. Let go of "created" emotions and standard poses, since they will show and you simply do not need them.

Working in your own, very personal mode may take some time and patience, but is clearly something that you are able to achive, as we see wonderfully from those three photographs.

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