Written review by
Photoeditor New York Times International, France
Frank Becker submitted a very good set of portraits. The images are well shot in terms of composition and technical aspects, and the series seems to be well thought in terms of message or idea or mood that the photographer wants to convey to the reader. From the point of view of the composition the portraits are well executed, the subjects are well framed, successfully isolated from their background, Frank is able to capture a nice light, and manages to handle depth of field in a consistent good way.
Also, Frank seems to have a precise idea beyond the pictures, beyond the series of pictures, capturing people in their thoughts, as if they were photographed while they are thinking of something personal.
The reader is brought into the emotional world of the subjects that are portrayed, in their personal sphere, and creates a bond with them: as a viewer you find yourself wondering what is behind the people in the photographs, what is their story, their background, where is their mind going.
Frank is able to hide his presence in most of the pictures, except from two frames: number 3 and number 9.
Picture number 9 is less successful in my opinion: the woman is interacting too visibly with the photographer. Her expression, and not just her eyes, seem to be directed to the photographer, caused by the interaction with him, which is something I do not find in the other images. Also from the point of view of the framing, I have the feeling that Frank was not completely able to handle the empty space next to her to the right, that do not make the picture's composition completely successful.
On the other hand I find picture 3 instead to be a very interesting image: the young men in the picture is looking into the camera, but almost seems to be looking beyond the camera. his expression is very strong, his eyes are very intense, but I do not get the feeling that his expressivity is the result of the interaction with the photographer, I do not get a feeling of a "forced" or a bit "artificial", expression.
Taking a good portrait is a very delicate and difficult balance between directing your subject, being in control of the situation, and being able at the same time to let the subject communicate and deliver a message, and feelings to the viewer. The photographer has to make lots of decisions about placement of the subject, background, how tight or loose he wants to frame the person in the photograph, but a the same time has to be able to establish a working relationship with his subjects, to be able to get the expressions he is looking for, and for them to be believable, even jf the photographer is inducing them.
Picture 3 and 7 are probably my favorite images of the series: this last one is a very natural photograph or a woman that seems to be fully immersed in her own world, looking up and sort of "far", the mouth slightly opened, she seems to be sort of vulnerable and intense at the same time.
There are two elements that I think Frank could try to explore more. The first is the distance from his subjects, trying to play more with tighter and looser images where he could let the environment in which the people are photographed play a stronger and more important role. The second is the body language of the people he photographed: it might be interesting to see how Frank can have it play a greater role in the expressivity of the people he chooses to portray.