Paul Close – Environmental Portraits

By using a white backdrop Paul Close takes the subject out of the background, and along with the caption showing their desires makes each image specific to the person being photographed. However the background then becomes slightly incidental, though enough is retained so that it doesn’t disappear completely. Across the entire set though the overall effect is to generalise the subjects into a common pool of subjects, whereas the accompanying compass points and map show that they are not in any way physically linked. The presentation doesn’t always help either; a better map might help to highlight the vast distances between the images rather than the tiny difference that is actually shown here.

As a document this set seems to show more about Paul Close’s journey through Africa than it does about the people he photographs. They become merely photographic subjects, and apart from the names and desire captions there is little else to help contextualise these people.

It is an interesting exercise in trying to adapt his tourist gaze to actually engage with people along the way, but effectively just reduces them to photo opportunities.

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