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Portraiture a la mode de Florence Henri

Time to start experimenting! I spent a while analysing the photographs that Florence Henri produced between 1927 and 1940. The first couple of years while as a student at the Bauhaus, Florence played around with space, time and objects within the aesthetics of Cubism, Purism and Constructivism. She studied under Moholy-Nagy, who considered photography to be a creative medium not just a a recording technique. The distinctive features of Florence Henri's work that I noted are the use of mirrors to frame, isolate and double her subjects; the presence of lines, circles, geometric shapes; and the use of contrasting light. Analysis of many of her images left me wondering what was real and what was the reflection. I decided to begin by recreating her approach to portraiture.


I made some key decisions before I took any images. Henri had possibly used a Leica with a 50mm lens so I opted for my Canon EOS R so that I could use a 50mm lens too. This immediately introduced a challenge for me as I am so used to being able to compose images through zooming in and out. Taking these photos meant I had to move my feet instead! I chose monochrome and 4x3 crop, to fit with Henri's work. Lacking my own studio I chose to take the photos in the room in the house that has plenty of natural light and mirrors - the bathroom! And I found my model there...... great timing!



It was a fascinating experiment, very much out of my comfort zone. And I have learned a lot about composition, framing and drawing the viewer's eye through an image.


What could I have done better? According to Kismaric, writing in the book that accompanied the 2015 exhibition of Florence's work in Paris, Henri treated people in her images as just another object, and faces were inanimate. I am not sure I accomplished that. I also did not vary my viewpoint much, although when I did I made a very rookie error. Can you spot my mistake?



Next.... Nature Morte!



References


Kismaric, S. (2015) 'Florence Henri's Photography within the Context of the Avant-Gardes, in Aperture (2015) Florence Henri: Mirror of the Avant-Garde. Aperture, Paris

Zelich, C. (2015) 'Florence Henri's Photography within the Context of the Avant-Gardes, in Aperture (2015) Florence Henri: Mirror of the Avant-Garde. Aperture, Paris


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