Max Colson: Tales

Photojournalism MA student at the LCC

The portrait of anonymity (post about Roderick Henderson’s work)

with 4 comments

I came across the work of Roderik Henderson after my MA coursemate Simon Bates flagged his work up. I’ve been looking through his work and I just wanted to do a little post about some of his portraits because I think they are really great.

His  series entitled Island is comprised of images which are taken of people from a community in Holland, and are set in the lifts that they use to go to and back from work.  If you look at the images you’ll see that what he has  produced is a series in which he has intentionally given the viewer  almost no insight into who the people are,  because of the location that he has decided to shoot his portraits in and because of the way that he has positioned his subjects in relation to the viewer. The cold, metallic surface of the lift is the perfect place to situate a series of portraits so scarce in personal information.

I just thought this was rather interesting given what I’ve been trying to do with the portraits on my current course assignment; I’ve chosen people with locations that will suggest something about them and what they do. But how much does this actually say about them as a person, besides the visually obvious? And when does this excercise become not worthwhile?

I thought Henderson’s intention was a provocative place to come, given my portrait assignment. It’s fascinating to see an artist who has worked so hard to make sure that what is visual does not actually give that ‘window into the soul’ that the portrait so often tries to convey.



Written by Max Colson

March 9, 2011 at 2:07 pm

4 Responses

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  1. well, there are 16 pictures in the collection. 4 show good looking women, and 12 show ugly men (if i count right). does this tell us anything about the the male photographer? if the answer is yes, what’s the point of this project??

    uta beyer

    March 9, 2011 at 3:08 pm

  2. Hi Uta – sorry I’m not quite sure I understand what you mean? Are you suggesting that the project would have been better or worse if he had changed the gender ratio?

    Max Colson

    March 9, 2011 at 6:15 pm

  3. The models were all residents of the high-rise building Roderick was living in at the time of the project. Roderick has lived a somewhat nomadic life and I think his photography projects are an exploration and reflection – possibly unconsciously – how this nomadic lifestyle has affected him both physically and mentally.
    “We dont see the world as it is, but as we are” quote from Anais Nin.

    simon bates

    March 10, 2011 at 11:31 am

    • ^Yeah, I very much agree. In his about section on his website he says this about the project:

      “I used [elevators] as my studio – stripped down to bare steel and fluorescent lights & hot and uncomfortable. This is how I wanted to photograph the idea of desert – a mental desert.”

      It’s interesting how he has chosen to use portraiture in a way that is intentionally not trying to say anything about the personal lives of the subjects he’s photographing and is just about illustrating the way that he feels himself. It works.

      One can argue that this happens when anyone decides to take a picture, but what’s different is that this is not the main intention for most people – it’s usually more unconscious.

      Max Colson

      March 10, 2011 at 1:13 pm

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