What is/was your personal project and what inspired you to start it?
My personal project is about using light and context to tell a story about my subjects without the benefit of eye contact. My style is very much driven by the connections I am able to capture between my subject and the camera. I have always been drawn to portraits that use eye contact to tell a story. Because of that, direct eye contact has become a recurring theme throughout my work. But after receiving some positive feedback on one of my first faceless images, I though it would be fun to challenge myself to create memorable and moving images without the benefit of direct eye contact or even faces.
Are there any challenges or ruts you faced during your project and how did you overcome them and keep a creative eye?
Finding creative ways to work with my uncooperative children has always been one of my biggest challenges. Often times I have a specific idea in mind that requires some level of cooperation on their part. They, on the other hand, have their own agenda, which does not include making their mother happy by cooperating for a photo session. I’ve been at this long enough to know what they respond to though and I’m not above resorting to bribes of lollipops and iPhone apps if necessary. When all else fails, I photograph them while they are sleeping or resort to using a cooperative adult. Never underestimate the appeal of a willing and quiet model! Ultimately though, my biggest challenge is to be less of a director and more of a storyteller, to capture the mood being expressed rather than control it. The images I’ve captured strictly as an observer are the ones that mean the most.
What have you learned through your process with your personal project?
Without the face, and specifically the eyes, to provide emotional cues, I have learned to pay close attention to and rely on my subject’s body language to convey the mood within the image. I’ve also learned that images without eye contact can often be just as effective, especially when they include interesting compositional elements such as dramatic light, leading lines, depth and atmosphere. This project has also made me realize how much I appreciate capturing everyday moments in both an artistic and authentic manner.
Allison McSorley, Virginia
CMU Instructor | CM Mentor
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Allison is a natural light photographer who specializes in dramatic light portraiture, with the bulk of her work demonstrating a strong emphasis on directional light and meaningful connections with the camera. She is passionate about creating artistic, meaningful and genuine images of her children, and teaching others to do the same. Allison is the author of Finding Light Among the Shadows and one of the instructors of CMU’s workshop Foundations of Composition. In her spare time, she enjoys sipping latte dolces, watching mindless television and spending quality time with her family.