Portrait en creux, a self portrait, taken at Sherbrooke Village Museum.

I recently completed Photography Techniques: Light, Content, and Sharing, the fourth of the Coursera photography courses I’ve been working through, and the last in the series open to non-paying students, like myself. The course had three assignments, which I chose to do on my vacation. The first was to create a portrait en creux.

Portrait en Creux

An unintentional example of portrait en creux - Ross Farm Museum
An unintentional  example of portrait en creux – Ross Farm Museum

This style of photography roughly translates to a ‘hollow image’. Basically, it is a portrait without the subject; a still life that represents that ‘missing’ subject.

The first step in this style of photography is to decide what items to include. What is it that people relate to me when they think of me? What items could I include in a still life that would represent these things?

In my case, I figured that some things people might list as my interests would include:

  • photography
  • military history
  • cross stitch
  • geeky things
  • writing
  • And, related to photography, I enjoy shooting old things, run down things, dead things.

Making the Photograph

I spent three days in a row shooting at Sherbrooke Village Museum and left my assignments, as well as some other challenges, for the last day, to give me new things to shoot. Otherwise, I hadn’t actually thought too much about what I would do. Despite my lack of planning, I pretty much had everything I needed in the bag I carried around everyday.

I had a second (film) camera, a book I had been reading, a geeky tee I had brought with me to change into in case I got too hot (I was wearing a long-sleeved shirt), a notebook and pen that I carried around to take notes (but never did!) and, finally, the cross stitch kit I’d brought on vacation, just in case I had time to work on it, that I threw in the car that morning for this shot.

Portrait en creux, a self portrait, taken at Sherbrooke Village Museum.

I’m not really happy with the composition (or lack thereof). It would have been better had I arranged a nicer still life indoors. After walking around the museum for a couple of days, however, I realized that an outdoor shot could incorporate that last item on the list above, with the building in the background.

I like the idea of portrait en creux. I definitely need some more practice, however. Still life is not a genre I’m very interested in, and I think it shows in those attempts I’ve made. I enjoy finding interesting examples around me, but I’m not really good at creating them on my own. I think it requires a certain amount of creativity that I don’t possess. However, I will continue to work on it!

Stay tuned for more photos from Sherbrooke, and the rest of my vacation. Follow me here on my blog, on Flickr, or Twitter for updates.

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