Shooting ten portraits of poets in a day inspired me!

Friday 11 March 2011

StAnza’s Artist-in-Residence this year is the photographer Dan Philips. Here he explains how how his project came about and why the photographer’s interaction with the sitter is so important.

It was about this time last year that I first became aware of StAnza. Having photographed the previous Director Brian Johnstone, in his home, I became intrigued and so spent a day in the company of the poets last year.

And it inspired me. Shooting ten portraits in a day it struck me how this kind of photography - more than any other - is about developing relationships. Your sitter can either collaborate with you, co-operate, enjoy the process and suggest ideas, or they can resist against it, be uncommunicative, or simply feel pushed for time. And the irony is that the latter can be as productive for pictures as the former. One of my best images from last year was of Linton Kwesi Johnson in his dressing room before his performance. He’d agreed earlier in the day, but the shoot being mere minutes before him going on stage, he was obviously pushed for time. I think the tension shows in his face and I love the picture.

So my residency is about bringing this relationship to the fore. After shooting each portrait I’ll ask each sitter to perform an ‘intervention’ on the printed image. I’ll give them some pens and what they do is up to them. They can ‘respect’ the image, or they can mock it.

And with StAnza being so clued up online those that can only visit for a day or two will be able to see the continued works on the StAnza Flickr stream, on Twitter, and on this blog.

You can see some of Dan’s previous work, including the portrait of Linton Kwesi Johnson, here.

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