In documentary or street photography there are several types of photos that are essential to take to explain a story: Place (The where) Action (It is the plot, the reason for the story) Details (It brings you closer to the action and makes you better understand the particularities of the action) and the portrait.

The portrait personalizes your story, humanizes the concept and brings together the rest of the shots around you or your subjects. Whether as part of a series or as a single photo, it is a powerful resource since, in addition to the narrative benefits, it can make us ask ourselves questions and intrigue us enough to want to know more.

Compositions guiding lines

For years there has been talk of what a portrait should look like, from more technical questions such as whether it works better vertically or horizontally, close-up or environmental portrait, color or black and white. Even more philosophical questions that debate whether the portrait speaks of the portrayed or the portraitist. However for this assignment we are going to touch a key part in the process of making a portrait and that is the empathy that you have with the subject.

Every time I meet a photographer I admire, I ask this question: If you could choose a living or deceased historical person, who would you photograph? And the answer is usually someone famous for its historical relevance, but if we speak in cinematographic terms, this is almost always “the good guy” of the film, the hero, and it is normal because they are people who inspire us and who have left a positive impact on humanity. (If you explore our blog you can read the interviews of several of these photographers and their responses). However each story, in addition to the hero, has a villain and for the narrative both are equally important.

Why am I talking about heroes and villains? Well, because as you probably have already noticed this assignment is about portraits, but with a spin. Instead of photographing your hero or someone you love (as would many of the photographers I mentioned before), for this assignment you will practice your empathy and seeing through “the dark side” of photography be finding someone with whom you disagree, either politically or philosophically or in any other sense and photograph them.

It is not unusual for a professional photographer to have to document people with whom, under normal circumstances, the wouldn’t even go for a coffee with, Platon (the photographer) has photographed from Gaddafi to Obama and everything in between and as he says: you do not have to like it later but it certainly forces you to look at it from another perspective.

In short: The assignment is to find someone opposite to you (the ‘bad guy’ and make a portrait of him or her. This can be in natural light or artificial light, exterior or interior, freestyle. And really  think about what you want to say about this person and how to get it across with one photograph.

Recommended photographers to research: Annie Leibovitz, Platon, Richard Avedon (especially the American West).

Conditions and deadline.

Yes, as with any assignment, there are a series of parameters that have to be followed:

  1. You have three whole weeks starting today, the 25th of June, to complete the assignment. Send us your work a day late and it will not be considered. Deadline: 18th July.

  2. To submit your work (the pitch) you will have to enter 3 processed portraits (of the same person), along with a shot interview transcript where he/she sheds light on who he/she is and write a paragraph explaining why you have chosen him/her.

  3. All submissions should be sent to: info@therawsociety.org

We will look through all of your pitches and the one(s) selected will have to send the full project which we will then share on our blog and Instagram feed. NOTE: All members who enter their work will get a free review regardless of whether their project is chosen or not. ARE YOU READY? GO! And don’t forget to have fun with it!

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on assignment, the new normalJorge Delgado-Ureña
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Portrait tip
Yemen by Samuel Aranda
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