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News and blogs about STUDIOVHF, STUDIOVHF SCOTLAND and Vincent Hartman in the English language.

Portrait of Britain

Having been behind the camera since 1987 with varying intensity, photography has been close to my heart ever since. It has been a journey with a lot of discovery and experimenting. From having my first exhibition in Zwolle in 1990 and a little photography business, to happy snapper and hardly touching a camera at all when we were living in Northampton. The last 8 years with a studio in Heino, close to my hometown in Zwolle, the photography was a head on commercial business, specialising in corporate and advertising photography, product and interiors. I also did some editorial work and to a certain extend, those images were more liberating. As a photographer with a marketing background I have always had the communication goal of the client in the back of my mind when creating an image.

That commercial drive was good for my clients and subsequently for my business, but made it hard or even impossible to switch off and do my own thing. Not that you can't be creative in commercial assignments, but that is more related to creating the right look and feel of an image in order to make an impact. Of course some commercial images clearly have my signature, whatever that means, but it is not free work. 

A number of times I have come up with ideas of starting various projects and discussed these with friends. I have envisaged some images in my head and still like some of them if I think about it, but I have never actually done it. Running a little photography business 7 days a week leaves little time to reflect and switch of to think about the next step to grow the business. The commercial impact of some of the images I have drawn up in my head were influencing the execution of it and some of the project ideas I had were in hindsight just there to make the business grow. So I was exploring a dead end road.

Now having moved back to the UK with main professional emphasis on marketing and with photography only being a part of it, opportunities for free projects are more within reach. And when I learned of the Portrait of Britain public art competition back in June 2016, I have followed the project with great interest.

Portrait of Britain, public art competition 2017

The Portrait of Britain public art competition is an award-winning annual exhibition that shows the diversity of people in modern Britain. It is organised by the British Journal of Photography in partnership with  the outdoor advertising company JCDecaux. Although I don't particularly like photography competitions and don't necessarily need national exposure, I thought it was a good opportunity to start a little project. With the deadline approaching, it would give me a clear goal. 

EU nationals in the UK

With winding down STUDIOVHF in The Netherlands, selling the Dutch property and moving the family back over to Britain again, I have followed the Brexit discussions with great interest. It is fair to say that the political climate here in Britain has changed tremendously from the years that we were living in Northampton. Without willing to turn my photography project into a political statement, for me it was an obvious subject to cover. 

Drawn up a list of people that I knew of or have met the last year that fitted the category, I set of that morning to take my first portrait for this new series:

Ian Hogg, Irish farmer in Scotland.

In the 10 minute drive to the location of the first image, I have again been deliberating with myself about the style of photography, what techniques to use, landscape frame or portrait frame etc? I concluded that it was not a commercial assignment so all those thoughts could be skipped and that I didn't have to win the competition either. How liberating! 

I did set myself some guidelines though, to ensure that not just the subject is the connecting factor, but also the style:

  • Images taken in my beloved Black and White
  • The subjects to be photographed facing camera, in an environment of their choice and where they feel comfortable
  • No directing of posture and scene and no controlling of styling and environment, just take it as it comes
  • Landscape mode to connect the surroundings to the individual and to complete the story visually
  • Keep photographic techniques as basic as possible   
  • Limit myself to the geographical area of the Country of Scotland 

The project has now 6 images and they have entered the competition. However, the project will not stop here, as the Portrait of Britain competition was just a tool for me to get it of the ground. So I will keep on adding portraits on the basis of 'who I bump into'. We will then see where this leads us..

More portraits

The full series of portraits of EU nationals in Scotland can be viewed here: EU Nationals in Scotland.