Written review by
Photo director of DU magazin, Switzerland
For this review I am looking at the photographic results produced by Svend Andersen from the Eyes in progress workshop on Portraiture led by Richard Dumas in February 2012. So what am I actually looking at? Let me inventorize first: the portfolio consists of eleven images alltogether nine of which are presented in black and white and two in colour. There are seven horizontals and four verticals. All of these environmental portraits seem to be taken on location with what looks to me like available light techniques. There are no real close-ups and all were made with a medium focal length and a medium distance kept.
Both he moody lighting and the expressive range of the human beings portryed is meditative and introverted. The focus is on the personality and not on socio-cultural surface markers. This type of portraiture is explicitly about personality, universality and soul searching rather than providing visual proof or nobilitation of the social and/or cultural status of the person being portrayed.
In terms of technical aspects the images are consistently on a high level. However the aethetics of framing and lighting vary across a broad range. This can be read as photographic versatility in a positive way, but one could also argue that the photographer has not in a final sense found his personal path to follow through.
For me personally I find that the most intimate results and the best connection between photographer and model are happening in a series of three portraits of a bespectacled blonde woman.
In those three images one can find a loose narrative that is not trying too hard to establish this narrative. It just happens and keeps the viewer wondering about the mystery of what happened then and there in this intimate moment between two human beings. From these three images I get a sense that the essence of the portrayed person is in immediate grasps length.
If I was to offer advice on the editing of the portfolio I would have presented an even tighter edit with just the image numbers: 1, 2, 7 presented as a tryptich and 5, 6, 9 and 11 as single images. In this way the strength of the coherent mini-series is accentuated further and at the same time the photogrpaher can show the versatility of moods and lighting without slipping into randomness.
Another favorite image in this portfolio is the young woman with just one sock on. This small element, be it a found coincidence or a conscious twist to this otherwise unassuming full body portrait resonates vividly and once again creates a story in my head, it lingers on. A quality that is essential to my perspective on what good portraits and what photography in general can do.