Sandrine Cornillot

Sandrine Cornillot


by Sandrine Cornillot (France)

Ma motivation: découvrir un autre regard sur le portrait et améliorer ma technique photographique. Mon projet : me spécialiser comme photographe de famille pour les particuliers.

Portfolio from the Portrait workshop with Richard Dumas, February 2012.

Written review by JULIÁN DUEÑAS,
Director at GEO magazine

If you allow me, at his stage, rather than considering whether your goal of becoming a family portrait photographer might be a risky venture when considered from the point of view of commercialization, I’d like to give you my opinion regarding the, so far little, quantity of your work that I have had the chance to examine.

Let’s go step by step. As you might well know, the technique of portrait photography is one the most complex, if not the most complex of all photographic techniques. Its accomplishment involves grasping the very essence of the instant and of feeling, that is, of photography itself. That is so because there nothing –no one- mediates: there is only you, the camera and your subject, and that’s it. Often, a great mastering of photographic techniques is not enough; the photographer who decides to undertake this task must be capable of capturing the soul of those he aims to portrait, as well as manage to codify it internally, and to communicate it in images. It is both rather simple and complicated. It is a rare gift granted to very few professionals. Thus, I sincerely admire your resolution to go ahead and dedicate yourself professionally to this activity, for it manifests your interest to face difficulties and challenges, and your determination to overcome them. Congratulations.

From the point of view of technique, I’d like to give you some advice on three aspects: composition, lightning and the subject, that is to say, model of your picture. With regards to composition, on the whole you apply perfectly the basic rules of the portrait. You seem to completely master those aspects that most people normally find rather challenging, namely, framing, focusing and finding the right depth of field. The use of your camera’s optics is correct: it eludes focal distortions which are due to a misuse of a camera’s angle; the backgrounds are neutral and are normally out of focus. Perfect. And that is maybe the problem that I can detect in your photography: that it is too perfect, it has a purely “academic” aura to it. On the other hand, what is missing, what I would like to get to see, is your gaze, for real, your photographic eye, your own style capturing attitudes, details, looks, some movement… I cannot perceive of anything that would make your work distinguishable from any other photographer who chooses to use the same technique, of which he also has a good command, when facing a very similar situation. What it is missing, what I would like to see, is the story behind those images, rather than simply the pretty images themselves. This is my main criticism: behind –within- your pictures, I see commercial work lacking quite a bit of soul. That is why I invite you to be yourself, to forget technique for a moment, and that you unbound your creativity.

More than the choice of natural vs. artificial lighting (for it seems you use both), I would advise you to work on lighting on the whole. Adequate lighting is what differentiates a good from a bad image, is what assures its achievement of failure to communicate something. In several occasions you show a good command of it (as in the case, for instance, of the girls posing by the trees), but in others its use is too evident. It must be more subtle, more natural.

Finally, let’s talk about subjects: a considerable difficulty which you seem to have so far suitably solved, but which I think may prove rather demanding in the future. You must keep in mind that certainly you will not always have the chance to face well-dressed beautiful models who feel comfortable with posing, and who respond accordingly to your requirements. Since, for the most part, your future models will be children and couples, the main priority of your photography will be to capture their individual sensibilities. The series of images from you that I have examined evidence your experience in this field, for you have solved this particular aspect flawlessly, that is to say, you transform them into professional models (I don’t know if they really are or not), receptive and quite at ease in front of the camera. Congratulations, once more.

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