Defining a genre, developing a style ~ personal work

Dec 22, 2010 | Location, Studio | 31 comments

October to December 2010

Here is the first stage in my process of defining a picture style of my own. Elements of the pictures here have probably all been shot before but to put them all together has been my quest. I want to shoot beauty without sexuality, beauty with soul and beauty with passion. I want to capture intimacy with respect and depth. I want a fusion of connectivity with my subjects and I want to develop my own style. – Not too much to ask then Haha.

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Fine art nudes are fabulous but often void of personality. They are pictures that celebrate the grace and beauty of human form but regularly separate it from the soul within. Anonymity is the order of the day. NSFW after thew jumpp_01

I often think that ‘Boudoir’ photography has overtones of ‘come and get me’ sexuality usually directed to a partner and is certainly a big market in the UK.

‘Erotic’ photography can often have a tacky resonance and employs a shock element to stimulate the imagination of the viewer. This is fabulous when it is done well.

I want to capture the soul, beauty and personality of my subjects using a fusion of energy and intimacy. I hope you enjoy following my journey. I’m not there yet but you can see my work in progress here.

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I need space
Space to compose
Behind this locked door
I have thoughts
Thoughts to unravel
In this cold steel bath
I had dreams
Dreams of love
Shattered by deceit
I had friends
Friends I need now
Be strong dig deep

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My shooting environment is intensely serious, intoxicating, electric and exhausting at times, exhilarating at others.

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In this set of images you can see all the genres from fine art nude to boudoir via erotic and a few others I’m sure. I bounce off all of these as I tack my way to my own style. I have many influences from photographers and painters alike. I’d love you to join me on a workshop in 2011. Perhaps you can also secure one of the first edition copies of my first book due out in a couple of months.

Damien.

31 Comments

  1. Charlie Round-Turner

    Hi Damian and his other followers

    I was just lurking a little then got drawn into reading Damian and Mark’s discussion. Full marks (forgive the pun) to Mark for your bravery in commenting, so I’ll give my 2p worth.

    I’ve also been following and admiring Damian’s work for a few years in his magazine articles mainly, also saw him at SWPP, saw a friend’s copy of couple of his DVDs and now following the blog!

    Regarding Mark’s comments about ‘real portraits… showing true soul’, I see his point. As Damian says, that’s where reportage/photojournalism comes in (even candid shots at a wedding or whatever I guess).

    Several great portrait photographers I’ve read of, would pretend to be busy fiddling with their camera or do something else to catch a photo of their (usually celebrity) subject more relaxed, guard down – thus a more ‘real’ portrait of their character…

    When I photograph young kids playing for family portrait commissions, they are unconscious of the camera and unselfconscious, so they are perhaps more ‘real’ than my (posed) wedding photos (one sees a lot of real emotion at weddings of course).

    But I also love when I get adults who are willing to follow some direction to get great photos… as Damian said, clients are paying for fantasy. When photographing a model, of course it is unlikely to be a completely honest portrayal of their personality, but then that’s not the objective. She will however, be able to pose well and help create beautiful art images.

    Now to this set of photos. Wonderful of course, love the BW tones, lighting, etc. Typical guy though I am, my favourite is the head & shoulders “p_37”, beautiful in it’s simplicity.

    While I admire the nude form, I’m not even going to try to attempt photographing it till much further on in my photography career. I will use the lighting and posing in these shots as inspiration when photographing clothed clients instead! I think it takes skill to show the beauty of the female (or male) form without it just having impact ‘cos the girl has ‘er top off. I don’t mean to sound sycophantic but I think Damian has def achieved that (mostly), showing the beauty in a jawline as much as in a naked torso. Couldn’t do it if I tried but you kinda know it when you see it. There are one or two photos where I actually found eg the breast slightly distracting (why wouldn’t I?!) from the beautifully lit face and serene expression, but I suppose sometimes the photo is trying to do that if it’s an erotic boudoir image.

    I personally can’t fault these photos! However, everyone can improve and it’s great seeing Damian so honest about his exploring and trying to find (another) style and getting even better along the way. Thanks again to Mark for stimulating an interesting discussion and thanks Damian for the constant source of inspiration.

    Best wishes for 2011 everyone!

    • damien

      Hi Charlie,

      Wow. Thanks for your kind words and taking the time to comment and share your thoughts with us in such detail. Have a fabulous 2011. Damien.

  2. Lila

    Hi Damien,

    I am an absolute fan of your work, and I hope to get to do at least one or two of your workshops in 2011.

    As for the photos in this blog…. I absolutely love some of them as they are absolutely stunning, beautiful and amazing… but I am not a huge fan of some of them… as they shot a little bit too much for my taste. I had recently done some sort of art nude shoot too, and I have to say it is not an easy one to do.

    So I have to say well done:)

    as for my favourites:
    p01 – I love your shots like this
    p12 – looks very depressing, dark and maybe a bit scary but I like the idea
    p18, p34, p37,p42,p51, p54, p55 are my absolute inspirational ones….

    All the girls are looking absolutely stunning at your photos but I think I have a secret crush on Chloe Jasmine, ooops maybe not so secret anymore:)

    I would like to wish you, Julie and your business all the best in 2011.

    Lila

    • damien

      Thank you Lila. Have a great 2011 and keep pushing forwards.

      Damien.

  3. damien

    Hi everyone,

    Thank you all for your kind and generous words. If I were to thank you all personally it would sound like an Oscar acceptance speech.

    Your feedback is so important to me. I’m not as thick skinned as perhaps I should be at times and I get great encouragement by your kind words.

    2011 will be an interesting year for us all and I hope the quality of photography I see in the professional sphere continues to improve at the current rate. We can all learn and draw inspiration from each other.

    Warmest regards,

    Damien.

  4. Mark

    Hi Damien, thank you for your detailed and thoughtful response. I have met you and chatted to you at the last two FOI’s and you are nothing other than a total gentle man.
    I do understand the point you make about the way people look and I know that you are totally a master at making people look as good as they possibly can. I also understand that you have done the leg work and walked the miles to get to where you are now. This also gives you license to go where ever you want and in what ever direction you want. I am being very guarded in even having this conversation with you because I am not sure about my own right to be able to do this at the from the basement standard and place that I am at present.

    It is just a feeling that I had when looking at your images and coupling that with what you had written ‘I want to capture the soul, beauty and personality of my subjects’. These images just didn’t seem to go along with that and I found myself thinking that to get to where you are going, can you do that with ‘Models’ who even when only part time will perform and in doing so hide their own soul and personality. That is a part of their job it could be argued. So are you making life hard for yourself? By your own good words you added that you are not there yet and this is a work in progress. I love that you are sharing your journey and thoughts and truly believe that in doing so you are inviting the thoughts of your readers/viewers. I don’t profess to have any answers either, just questions in my mind about trying to achieve something that displays a truth of personality and soul in such a choreographed manner. I know this is a whole can of worms to open up about portraiture and it has been debated ad infinitum. Perhaps what I am feeling in reading what you write and seeing the accompanying images is a conflict between the two.

    Sorry to get so deep. It is to your credit that you engage in such a discussion and it really helps all of us. I for one will follow your journey and see where it takes you and how it develops.

    As for my ‘Real Portraits’ phrase. I know that is a bit of a hot potato as well. I admit that I cannot fully explain it. It has been argued that by the person even knowing that they are having their portrait taken, that any honesty in the portrait is somewhat diminished, but I think that is a whole other debate.

    To bring it back home and to conclude. If you are seeking to take celebrity pictures then these images are probably spot on because they are a fantasy and I think celebrities will go for that. If you are looking for intimacy and personality then I feel a conundrum in the images that you posted.

    Kind regards, a very nervous

    Mark.

    • damien

      Hi Mark,

      Don’t feel nervous. Your observations are nothing short of brilliant. We all have a lot to learn, especially me. I totally agree with what you are saying and the work here is as you say more fantasy than reality. Reality is rarely this gorgeous and the great documentary photographers like Bert Hardy or Cartier – Bresson chose to show it a’s it is’ all though don’t believe everything you see. There is still a lot of choreographing in their work. I don’t really want to go down the actuality road and I think the fantasy road is better option for me. The glamour of film and television is rarely lived out by the actors and actresses that make the genre. However I love the fantasy. So maybe my words describing my goal need modifying. Anyway is great to have your input and I will think hard about our conversation here when I shoot on Thursday.

      One other thing of note is that a lot of followers to this blog are in photography for commercial reasons and I believe portraits with a fantasy element are very marketable indeed. More so than ‘real portraits’ perhaps. This is a genre that I know can have a premium price point attached and attract wonderful clients who are prepared to invest in photography. Something different that commands a high price point is a great thing to have in these economic times.

      Best regards,

      Damien.

  5. Jonathan Hughes

    Gorgeous and inspirational……

  6. Mark

    Hi Damien, I respect you and your work very much and hope to invest some of my money in your training courses throughout 2011. In fact it is one of my business goals for the year ahead. As ever, these images are technically beautiful and I can only dream of achieving this standard of technical excellence. I am embryonic in my development compared to where you are. I am also reading what you write about the journey you are on with regards to your portraiture but I find that as amazing as your work is there is something missing for me. This is my opinion and I expect there will be a barrage of disagreement from your admirers but I think that while you photograph perfect people in perfect locations a certain amount of soul will be missing and these will be great photographs but debatable as portraits. I would love to see more of your real portraits. I accept that I might have missed something here and perhaps that is not the purpose of this blog. Just in case however, I thought I would share my thoughts. I am really looking forward to booking my first course with you as you are an amazing photographer.
    best wishes,

    Mark

    • damien

      Hi Mark,

      Thank you for your refreshing honesty and I hope you don’t get berated by anyone. There are a few ideas and experiences I want to share with you. I’ve spent 12 years of my career photographing ‘real’ people for my sole income and to be honest there is very little difference in the type of people I have shot. I found early on in my career that charging significant fees for weddings or portraits (upwards of £5k) attracts people willing to invest in pictures of themselves. These customers are usually attractive and some might say a bit vein. That is the nature of commissioning pictures of yourself I suppose. Unless your image is your career like actors, models etc. Then the investment in pictures can be a business necessity.

      Photographers like Rankin get to shoot super models whose fees are in the thousands of pounds per day. Apart from Chloe – Jasmine Whichello the models I shoot are local girls and not full time top London agency represented. Most have full time jobs and do modelling to provide a secondary income. In essence they are ‘real’ people.

      When I shot weddings with Julie my wife I used to hear the same old thing. “It’s alright for you, all your brides are gorgeous”. Maybe our pictures made them look gorgeous. I don’t know, all I do know is it is a real challenge to bring out the best in someone. It takes craft skill to light an un symmetrical face in a way that results in balance and beauty. I like to shoot ‘interesting’ faces and rarely will one of my chosen models be ‘perfect’ as you describe.

      The locations too are far from ‘perfect’. Yes, I try hard to choose the best locations I can but each one has it’s challenges. Most delegates are left amazed at what can be achieved with so little. Even my studio is a sparse rectangular shell measuring 7m x 5m. Equipped with lights that I’ve had for 18 years. It’s not the perfect people or the perfect locations that make my pictures, it is me. Of course these shots represent my personal work and I’m on a journey that might take me towards shooting celebrities. Who knows?

      I’ve been thinking about your phrase ‘real portraits’ and I wonder if environmental portraits might suit your preference. I’ve never shot portraits in my studio out of choice, except head shots for Spotlight magazine or model portfolios. I usually shoot at peoples homes or out on location. I like to shoot families in an environment that relates to them. Children in their bedrooms etc. My last family shoot of the year was just before Christmas and I shot the family group in mum and dads bed. All snuggled up together. I never blog my client work, just my workshop or more recently my personal work.

      I look forward to shooting alongside you at a workshop in 2011. I’d also love to see some links to ‘real portraits’ that you find inspiring. I think that commentators like yourself can really add to the prophotonut reader experience in so many ways.

      Thanks and respect,

      Damien.

  7. CAT YARNOLD

    Hi damien,
    wow! I just adore these fine art nudes, the lighting is incredible, you inspire me. Cat.

  8. Morten Fjord Stengaard

    Dear Damien,

    This is absolutely beautiful. Love your grace and passion in all the pictures. And as your quest was intended, there is a beautiful flow in all the pictures put together.
    I love your black/white grey toning.
    I try to grab all that I can handle of your wisdom, and hope to someday make just one photo as stunning as yours.

  9. Markus MacGill

    The above says it all. Have the time of your life, Damien! Happy Christmas.

  10. Lis McDermott

    Hi Damien

    They are absolutely fabulous with real passion and you make the women look beautiful without them looking overly erotic – the eroticism is their natural beauty, which you’ve captured . They look stunningly beautiful and any woman would want to be photographed in that way.
    I can’t wait to do my next ‘feel good’ shoot – you’ve yet again given me some inspiration. I’m so glad and lucky that you were (and still are) my mentor! Thank you for sharing them with us all.
    Happy Christmas,

    Lis
    x

  11. Daren King

    Damien,
    I said I would comment on your images…wow.. they are truly amazing..you really should be proud of this personal work. Certainly something to prize..
    A couple of comments if I may though.. Photo 46, her feet look funny, I feel it would be better if you had seen more of the soles of her feet..I originally thought it was hands..
    Photo 59 I love the way her curves are mirrored in the shadows from the blinds..

    Once again..

    Amazing!!!

    Daren

  12. OttossonPhoto

    Gorgeous images Damien! It´s art. Truly art!

    Happy Christmas from Sweden!

    /Benny

  13. CoventryBob

    Wow wow wow – what a Christmas feast of images..
    Intimacy with connection
    Softness and beauty
    Shape, form and femininity
    Light daring to touch, throwing shadows
    Revealing but hiding
    Blending light, shapes and beautiful women

    All topped off with our familiar friend! Chloe Jasmine who we have all come to love through your posts.

    All I can say is probably the best photo blog post of 2010 (both sides of the pond)
    You’ve raised the bar so high I’m looking forward to seeing what you accomplish in 2011 but I know you’re always up for a challenge.

    Excellent work – Happy Christmas Damien

  14. Rufat Abas

    Breathtaking photographs! Enjoyed the whole set! Love your creativity and ability to manage the light. Just awesome!

  15. Ivan Packer

    Simply stunning. Your attention to detail and composition are amazing Damien!

  16. Mart

    Thanks for sharing Damien, your site is always my first stop for inspiration. Looking forward to the release of your fine art book. Anyone reading this who hasn’t been on one of Damien’s workshops – book one now, you won’t regret it.

  17. Trevor Ronson

    Beautiful, stunning images that simply show a master at work. They are just so inspirational I could look at them all day.

    Kindest Regards
    Trevor Ronson

  18. Philip Bamber

    I just love the pure simplicity and fine-art feel of these shots. Defining personal style is something I’m thinking about a lot and your work is currently one of my most important influences. Keep it coming Damien!

  19. Phil

    I have watched your posts on twitter with eager anticipation of the wonderful work about to unfold as I quickly click on the posted link. This collection exceeds all expectations. A set of stunning images with a true sense of art and form. Both inspirational and moving. A fitting collection to illustrate your keen eye and technical mastery. Fantastic and thank you Damien for sharing

  20. John Tisbury

    Love the range of styles here and it shows your capture of emotion, style and grace and I like the contact and intimacy you’ve managed to captured with your subjects.

  21. anoeska

    Wow, just gorgeous! you managed to make nude photography so sophisticated! Love it!
    And just as Stefan said above: i will be very interested to join if/when you plan a workshop in Holland!

  22. Ferry

    I just discovered this website, and I am stunned about the amazing photos on this site. Well done and as you mention it is quite a challenge to find your style. But wel done!!

    Added to my inspirational list :) Thanks for sharing.

    Merry Christmas…

  23. Stefan Vogelzang Fotografie

    And once again, even in this series p_37 remains my favourite. And p_51…. wow! Are you planning on giving a workshop in Holland any time soon?

  24. Mel

    Some of those are stunning, but then Im a big believer in ‘keeping a bit back’ like the old B/W movies.
    I look forward to seeing more.

  25. Lesley Wood

    Wow Damien – this is just beautiful. Such atmosphere, sensitivity and such strong emotion!
    What an amazing journey you are on. I will certainly RT and show around to my networks.
    Best wishes,
    Lesley

  26. Chris Hanley

    Seriously beautiful photography worthy of an F.
    What I find fascinating as a photographer is watching, learning and understanding how a style develops. I feel in a privileged position as a friend and fellow professional witnessing the augmentation of your art.
    As your style develops, allow me to influence your research with one of my favourite italian photographers http://www.gabrielerigon.it/

    Merry Christmas to you and all your readers
    C