For Tristan Still, photography is primarily a way to connect with people. Speaking of his encounters with his sitters, Tristan says, “The photography has almost become secondary… a reason to catch up and to work on something together.” His resulting portrait photographs are appendages of the connections forged between himself and his sitters, or rather, his collaborators (as Tristan prefers to call them).
For the past two decades, Tristan has worked as a multidisciplinary artist and made his mark in photography for his intimate portraits. His honest and unpretentious approach to portrait photography has seen Tristan garner wide acclaim from various photography awards, including our very own Head On Portrait Award.
For the first Spotlight of 2023, we are excited to welcome Tristan to share how he has navigated the genre of portrait photography. We’ll discuss everything from his practical secrets to how the centrality of the relationship between himself and his collaborators has been key to his success in photography awards.
Book now via the link below to join us online at 12:30pm AEST on Wednesday, 26 April.
How would you describe your photographic practice?
I make photographs because I love the process. I particularly love the magic of the process of analog film, and the excitement of seeing what appears when the film is developed. For a long time, my work has centred around portraits and interpersonal connections. The photography has almost become secondary in these encounters, a reason to catch up and to work on something together. Photography has almost always been something social for me.
How do you find your sitters?
Almost all of the people I work with to make portraits are people that I know and have a personal connection with. They might be people that I’m very close to, or they might be people that I have known for many years but are just reconnecting with. Sometimes they are people who are close to someone I know, but almost always, they are someone who I know or meet through a personal connection.
How do you work with your sitters?
Usually, we sit and talk for some time. We talk about many things, and often we talk about the photography and the process itself. The photography happens in and around conversation, usually taking moments to pause to shoot a number of shots with intention, sometimes shooting during conversation. We often try a few different spots to catch a particular bit of light or try different backgrounds.
How do you maintain your sitters’ voices whilst realizing your own vision?
Part of this comes from the process – before, during and after the actual making of the photographs, working with people and asking questions about how they want the process to work. Sometimes they want me to direct the process, other times people have specific ideas or concerns they want to see addressed either in the process or the final image. A more direct form of a ‘voice’ or autonomy in representation comes from asking the person I am working with to write something about themselves to specifically accompany their image. This written component is presented with the work to give context to the work in a way of their choosing.
Do you have any secrets that you use in your practice?
I feel that the camera and film I use inform a part of the ‘look’ of the images I have made most recently. I shoot the majority of portraits using a Mamiya 6, which is a medium format film rangefinder camera. The 75mm f3.5 lens, coupled with the film size can produce sharp and detailed images with beautiful depth, as well as a colour palette familiar to colour negative film. I work almost exclusively with available light and my software needs are very simple, as the film stock provides the colour palette for each image. The software is simply for scanning and removal of dust. I tend to scan the negative film as it is and do the reversal process in the image editing software, rather than at the scanning stage, that way I have a little more control over the colours and tone.
To keep the conversation going, book your spot for Fearless Photography and join us online at 12:30pm AEST on Wednesday, 26 April.
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Head On Photo Awards
The Head On Photo Awards represent a global selection of the best work from emerging and established photographers across four categories: Portrait | Landscape | Environmental | Student