If you are a stickler for political correctness I fear this blog is not for you. Please leave the page. If on the other hand your mind is more open, hang in there as I will get to photography, eventually. The caption above may resonate with those of you of a certain age. If it doesn’t you may wish to start by playing the clip below (courtesy of that fine institution U-bend, also known as You Tube).
In this classic Pete and Dud sketch, Dud (Dudley Moore) is Mr. Spiggott, a one-legged man auditioning for the part of Tarzan. Pete (Peter Cook) is explaining to him, why he may not land the role.
I am not sure whether this would be broadcast today. It might be seen as an attack on the disabled. In the same vein the wonderful comedy show It Ain’t Half Hot, Mum is also persona non grata. I suspect it is seen as demeaning the Indians, whereas as I recall it was more a very pointed jab at the absurd colonial attitudes of the British Army in India. The local characters were drawn with great affection. I especially liked Punkah Wallah Rumzan. At least it is now available on DVD, I believe.
Even today, 50 years after its maiden performance, the Pete and Dud sketch still makes me laugh out loud. They were two supremely gifted individuals. Although Moore went on to become a film star he was a talented pianist to boot, as seen in this Beethoven piece.
The significance of the Tarzan sketch to my photography is that my wife insists that whilst I may occasionally take a passable shot of a bird, moth, flower and even street scene, there is one particular aspect of photography where I am Mr. Spiggott. Portraits. Indeed, let’s extend that to people generally. In other words, she will always turn first to the restaurant waiter to take the family photo before me. The shame of it. And what really affronts me is that she is probably right.
Nevertheless, I offer today a selection of what might loosely be termed portraits. Let’s start with a fairly standard baby shot:
At least on this occasion the baby is not crying at me but at its father.
Next, every temple offers a wide range of monks as potential subjects. This is perhaps less conventional – soft focus, monochrome removing the vivid saffron of the robes and little to put him in context.
The more conventional shot is this:
Saffron robes, tranquil water, sandals discarded, how much more stereotypical can I get?
Next what is perhaps not a pure portrait but one of my favourite people shots. This was taken inside a temple. There is very little natural light, one lightbulb and some flickering candle light. The ISO was 640, the aperture F1.4 and the speed, wait for it, 1/8s – handheld. And I don’t care if it is not razor-sharp.
Her face is half in shadow, the eyes downwards, the clothes have a luscious glow to them, the paraphernalia are glittering – note the dollar bill in the tray bottom right – and the incense sticks lie on the step beside her. I wish I had pushed the ISO further and maybe tried at F0.95 but all around people were shooting with flash. I chose to sit in the corner away from the other happy snappers and I had no flash with me so I felt I was intruding less.
To conclude, a quintessentially Chinese scene – tai chi. Taken in my local park, the lady was happy to be photographed and indeed grinned on several occasions, which probably wasn’t what the tai chi master wanted……. the sifu was not amused.
So there we are, Mr. Spiggott’s guide to portrait photography. If you don’t like it then frankly, Scarlatti, I don’t give a damn. Now if only I could play the piano like Dud.