Following on from previous posts regarding natural light photographers, Sophie Harris-Taylor[i] is another photographer who works only with natural or available light when creating work. Her portraits have a beautiful soft quality to them, whilst at the same time offering a realistic view of what the subject looks like. I feel when I’m looking at her work that I’m looking at the actual person, not the lighting or editing. For example this photo from her series “Sisters”, when looking at the two women in this image you don’t look at think “they only look like that because of editing or stylists or studio lights” – the kind of thoughts you have when looking at glossy magazines. The simple composition and natural light make you believe that what you are seeing, who you are seeing, is more real than an studio photograph of a celebrity in a magazine or in an advert.
Her work at times almost has a painterly feeling to it; LensCulture writes that she “draws inspiration from the Renaissance painters”[ii], and I do feel that you can see this in her work. The directional light, use of shadows, and subject arrangement, puts me in mind of some Renaissance paintings; in particular this image by Harris-Taylor and this painting of St Francis of Assisi by Caravaggio:
It’s so interesting that this style of photography can seem more realistic than non-naturally lit or studio lighting portraits, when it is also reminiscent of paintings hundreds of years old, of people that may or may not have existed. Even if they did exist, the paintings of them are creations from the artists mind, and so can be argued as completely not-real.
The way Harris-Taylor uses light and shadow in this way is fascinating, beautiful and something I will keep in mind for my work going forwards. It is also so interesting to see the way she is inspired by Renaissance paintings in her photography. It is a great reminder that stimuli can come from anywhere and I should not be afraid to look to other arts, or further afield, for inspiration.