Deadpan Photography

Research

I have seen in many other students blogs and assigments conversation about ‘Deadpan’ photography, but haven’t really come across it in the course, except in relation to Bernd and Hilla Becher’s ‘water towers’. Therefore, I thought I’d do a bit of research into this style of photography.

The most popular definition of this genre is that a deadpan photograph is devoid of emotion.

I have already come across a few photographers, such Rineke Dijkstra, August Sander and the Bechers who are famous for this kind of work. However, a few others have cropped up in research such as Alec Soth, Stephen Shore and Jitka Hanzlova.

There are some rules to making ‘deadpan’ images:

  • the subject should be in the middle of the photo,
  • the subject is not posed and should be straight on to the camera
  • the subject is looking directly at the camera
  • the photographer is not showing an connection with the image
  • shoot in flat light
  • the image is often desaturated.

“It’s a detached art, where the photographer merely captures something as it is, flat and almost uninteresting at first glance” (Depositphotos).

I actually quite like this aesthetic and can see it’s use to record social history and people in their places, but in my own photography, I have always strove to capture emotion and connectedness, which is the complete opposite of this style. Having said that, I would like to include it in my repertoire as it fits well with conceptual art to tie concept to outcomes.

I realise from researching this that my first assignment although based on Sander’s images, are actually not deadpan at all and offer a greater depth of connection between myself and the subject.

Works Cited

“Alec Soth.” Alecsoth.Com, 2020, alecsoth.com/photography/. Accessed 8 July 2020.

Depositphotos. “Deadpan Photography Trend In 2018 – Depositphotos – Medium.” Medium, Medium, 13 Mar. 2018, medium.com/@Depositphotos/deadpan-photography-trend-in-2018-73a26d802cc1. Accessed 8 July 2020.

“Jitka Hanzlová.” Jitkahanzlova.Com, 2020, www.jitkahanzlova.com/menue.htm. Accessed 8 July 2020.

“So What Exactly Is Deadpan Photography?” Student Resources, 29 Aug. 2014, www.nyfa.edu/student-resources/what-is-deadpan-photography/#:~:text=Deadpan%20portraits%20show%20people%20in,colors%20tend%20to%20be%20muted. Accessed 8 July 2020.

“Stephen Shore.” Stephenshore.Net, 2020, stephenshore.net/photographs/uncommon/index.php?page=13&menu=photographs. Accessed 8 July 2020.

stevemiddlehurst. “The Deadpan Aesthetic.” Steve Middlehurst Context and Narrative, Steve Middlehurst Context and Narrative, 24 Feb. 2015, stevemiddlehurstcontextandnarrative.wordpress.com/2015/02/24/the-deadpan-aesthetic/. Accessed 8 July 2020.