South London Photographer: Portrait shoot and the joys of Internet dating

I had so much fun yesterday doing a portrait shoot with a very old friend of mine from university days. Actor and director James Nickerson has always made me laugh and yesterday was no different.

Our shoot started in a local, proper old-fashioned pub that has yet to be homegenised and plasticised. I think our starting venue came as bit of a surprise to James, but I really like the lighting as well as the vibe in there and I’m sure James was rather pleased to start the afternoon off with a pint. The landlord was welcoming and jolly accommodating too – thank you!

I’m sure our location is not the only reason James relaxed into it so quickly — something to do with being professional, experienced and the fact that we know each other might also have played a part, but it was just such a joy to work with someone who wasn’t prone to tantrums, demanding of regular bribes of chocolate and who didn’t have eager parents standing around saying, “If you don’t smile, Father Christmas won’t come!” (Never that helpful, by the way…) Having concentrated on children and families for a bit, that is the sort of thing I have become used to.

Just before Christmas James and I had met and we hadn’t seen each other for years and years so had lots of catching up to do. We had a good laugh about all sorts and I brought him up to date on the tale of woe of my somewhat disastrous marriage/divorce. Which took us onto the subject of Internet dating.

A good friend who shoots weddings had suggested I sign up to an online dating site as a large proportion of her clients meet that way. Since I am no mood to get married again this century, I think I might be avoiding the site she suggested. And I know I’m too old and somewhat disinterested for another site that I’ve heard is really all about instant gratification. I asked James’ advice and he said, don’t bother; you meet too many weirdos on the Internet. Then he told me about some of his friends’ dates, which all sounded very unappealing, I must say.

I remember reading an article in the Guardian suggesting that you should try to avoid being too honest about yourself when you sign up. This particular article was written by a women whose male friend told her she came across as too successful, too intelligent and basically rather daunting for any potential male suitors.   So, this is where I have a big problem with the idea of Internet dating, even though I know so many people do meet that way nowadays. (In fact, a potential client of mine told me he and his future wife met via the Guardian. He went that route, he said, because at least he could more or less guarantee anyone he met would have similar political ideas to him.)

My problem really lies with the ‘not really being yourself’ aspect to it all – oh, and the meeting weirdos bit too. Given that I have spent my entire adult life trying to find out who ‘myself’ is and then trying be that person, I think I’d find it all a bit bothersome and annoying. And I’m really not sure it would do to start my little online dating career with the following:

“Woman: slightly moody, often neurotic and definitely needy, but also bizarrely distant and fiercely protective of time alone; occasionally rather slovenly but highly censorious about anyone else’s mess; probably quite intelligent and not really up to pretending otherwise in order to flatter any fragile male egos; no money to speak of; three brats in tow; rather cross and peculiar ex-husband lurking in the background.

Seeks man: Well, maybe she does and maybe she doesn’t;

who isn’t a sociopath and washes properly.”

Yeah… I’m not sure my Internet dating life has any legs…

James did come up with another idea though. Do a long-term project where I go on Internet dates and do a portrait of each one, then write about them on a special blog. “So,” James advised, “You’d tell them, no ongoing dating or sex or anything like that – ‘I just want to take your photograph’’. You see, James is just funny! He did make me laugh – thank you, James, and thanks for being such a brilliant person to work with.

So here they are. I’ve popped little notes about lighting etc. underneath for anyone who is interested.

All photographs (c)Sarah-Jane Field 2015

Thanks to the Grosvenor Arms on Garrett Lane in Wandsworth for being so welcoming.

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Lit from a skylight window to the left where the sun was coming in, and to the right, a balcony window in shade. A reflector, expertly, if not a little inconsistently, held by Son No 3 in front to the left.  All of these images are edited in Lightroom and have had very minor adjustments in Photoshop, removing marks from the wall behind and some under-eye lightening (but really very little).  I’ve kept an eye on the blacks (as I do tend to overdo them) but I made sure, using the blue highlight in Lightroom, they were not too heavy.  All shot using a Fuji X100s.
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Natural light coming through an old translucent window (by that I mean some light can get through but it’s diffused) and reflector held by me as I put the camera on a tripod and set to timer.
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Natural light, in the shade towards the end of the afternoon. Some bright sunshine was shining on the buildings behind and it tended to be a bit overexposed up there in the top right hand corner, but I can live with that, I think.
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Same as the first image but I was lying down on the floor and I’m not sure Son No 3 was really that up for his role as reflector holder here so it was balanced against a stool. Son No 3 was a bit jealous by now and a little worried…
Same as above for lighting
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Here the sun was shining quite a lot through the skylight and bouncing off the white-painted wooden floorboards giving this glow. I dispensed with the reflector (or rather Son No 3 had given up by now and I thought there was enough light bouncing about the place anyway). Edited:  Looking at this a bit more, maybe I should have used the reflector to even out the light at the top of of his face…. I was a bit undecided about this one to begin with, but I think James’ expression is great and the light actually suits the purpose – and builds on my portfolio.
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Light the same as before in the pub, coming through the old fashioned window in front of James.
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