Graham Lester George will be setting up his temporary studio at Nottingham Castle on Thursday 5th August, inviting the general public to have their photograph taken for his ongoing artistic project Face to Face...
Can you tell us about your project?
Face to Face is a project where isolate my subjects from any clues to their background, profession, the clothes they wear, any environmental things around them. So that all we have to assess that person, to make a judgement about them, is their face. When you isolate people’s faces you really do look at them closely. I want my audience to feel as if they’re in the presence of the person. The idea is about really revealing the person without having any kind of clues to pre-judge them. It’s also a kind of typological process – you can almost sort people into types.
And this is happening at the Lincolnshire Poacher.
Yes, the main project is centered on the Lincolnshire Poacher pub. Not for any reason other than it’s a way of selecting a fairly large group of people who don’t necessarily know each other, but all go to one place. Plus the fact that its my local. What I do there is set up my temporary studio in the upstairs room of the pub and then I go down and ask customers if they’d be willing to be photographed. I’m going to produce a book based on the Poacher portraits.
You’re looking for people to volunteer, rather than you picking people from a room?
No I do ask people. I go up to them and say ‘will you do it’. If anything I would say in the Poacher the most difficult problem is getting women. As what I don’t want people to do is to dress up and have their hair and make-up done. I just want them to come as they are. Because of that I’ve had quite a few women say “I’d rather not”.
Do you find some people shy in having these portraits taken?
Well its changing a bit, as people have now seen the project and are becoming aware of it, and because they can go online and look at the pictures, they’re a bit more willing to participate because they can see its an art project and done in a professional way.
When you’re setting some up to have their portrait taken do you ask them to remain expressionless, or do you ask them to smile?
No, I don’t say anything. I don’t give any instructions – the only thing I say is ‘look at the lens’. There’s a video of how I set someone up on the facebook page. I put a black bib around their neck. I take about 5 shots of each person and I shoot in raw (a technical thing). To get the flesh tones correct I have to make some adjustments in Photoshop. When they are processed and I get the ones printed to exhibit – they are really sharp and almost hyper-realistic.
The Lincolnshire Poacher photographs will become part of the book you’re planning and the ones taken at the Castle, what will happen to them?
They become part of the online gallery associated with the exhibition website and become a subset of the main Poacher project. The Castle ones might be exhibited elsewhere. The plan is to do quite a few more and have a show of maybe 50 of them. They’re life size heads and 50 of them would fill a nice size room. Ideally at eye level and in a dimly lit room with one simple spot light above each one – like you’re meeting them in person. That’s why my project’s called Face to Face.
Are there any photographers who have particularly inspired you?
Ah loads, at the moment Diane Arbus, on at Nottingham Contemporary and I’ve admired her for very many years. Obviously all the greats like Cartier-Bresson, Willy Ronis etc., and many contemporary photographers.
Diane Arbus, I think. I’d like to look weird.
I don’t think you’re unusual enough to be photographed by her!
Everybody’s unusual. She found the unusual in everybody. She was so talented in photographing people off the street and just catching that certain look in the eye.
How long to do you think Face to Face will take to complete?
I think it will be completed next year.
And if people wanted to be photographed or involved in your work…
Anyone can come to the Castle and sit for a portrait on Thursday 5th August from 11am til 1pm.