Portrait of the Artist at the Lumberyard

Shooting a portrait of an artist can be a tricky thing. It goes without saying that it cannot simply be a picture of how the artist looks like but mainly needs to say who he or she is, or at least give us some directions and hints. This is of course true for any portrait as it needs to be more than a ‘head shot’ but is in a way more challenging with artists as it calls for a deeper level of collaboration between the subject and the photographer than, for example, a corporate portrait. If both subject and photographer are open to the collaboration the result could be very satisfying for both.

Felix Burkle is a German choreographer, dancer and juggler. He is an artist in residence with the Max Mueller Bhavan in Mumbai and is currently working on a new performance titled The Wood Project. Felix was staying with us in Goa for a few days and wanted to visit a nearby lumberyard for some inspiration. We’ve been talking about his work and I felt I had a pretty good idea about who he is as an artist. The wood project is at it’s very early stages but I was ready to try and translate my understanding into a visual representation. We decided to go and see if we could possibly  take an interesting portrait in preparation for the piece at the lumberyard.

The Wood Project

The location was stunning, full of all types of processed and unprocessed wood. I immediately spotted a wonderful wooden wall full of character that I knew I would like to use. I wanted the frame to be full without any other distractions except him holding or juggling a piece of wood. It was the perfect background.

Portrait of an artist - Felix Burkle, Wood, 2011

I left Felix to practice while I took a walk around to see what else I could find. There was so much color and texture that the idea of using some detail shots to make the simple portrait more interesting and informative was almost obvious. I took some shots and later combined them as a triptych composition. The image of the processed wood on the left was taken inside the storage area using an SB-900 flash with orange filter while the two shots of the unprocessed wood and the portrait were taken outside in daylight. It was a gray cloudy monsoon morning so some color correction of white balance and contrast needed to be done in post production to make the images work together. Here is the final image.

Portrait of the artist at the lumberyard. Felix Burkle