Photo Life / Creating a Portfolio Book

Background: I knew what I was going to shoot long before fourth semester started. While others were creating completely new worlds, shooting fashion or tabletop, I wanted to capture reality. My book was going to be a documentary about people in a sensitive state of body and mind from a unique environment. They could be homeless children, the poor, the sick—you name it. Ideas are easy to acquire, yet without accessibility they are merely thoughts. My mentoring professor told me that on numerous occasions. I cautiously approached several charitable and non-profit organizations that I thought would benefit from my project. Fortunately, the very first turned my offer down; others left me without an answer. Why fortunately? Because after that, I got hold of Variety Village, which is an amazing fitness facility for people with disabilities. I was looking for this kind of special place, where people were not afraid to share their feelings and experiences and where they would stay themselves in front of a camera.

© Aleksandra Shornikova

Process: I had all the possible support from the members and staff of Variety Village who turned out to be the friendliest people I ever dealt with. At the beginning of this project, I would wander around the place for several hours, look at the people, and study their faces. I was scared to take a shot. The first couple hundred images were so bad I almost wanted to quit. I realized that if I wanted to have enough material for my book, I needed to push harder, the way these people do every day, despite the difficulties they might have. I forced myself to get closer, to talk more and to ask questions. Whatever I did, I remembered to smile.

Lighting was an issue. The facility was lit predominantly with fluorescent and tungsten lights. Some rooms were almost dark, while others were too bright, and the light had a mix of different colour temperatures. I was allowed to use my flash but also advised not to risk it, because of the possibility of triggering seizures. When it was time to edit and pick the best images for the book, I realized that shooting was indeed the easy part of it.

Conclusion: Out of more than two thousand images, only twenty-seven ended up in my book. Even more time was spent on creating the layout. I wanted the book to be a particular typographic experience, with the layout, type and images complementing each other. At the end of the day, I felt tired, but I knew that I should also feel proud. It is not always about the grades or the competition. The things we feel passionate about and enjoy doing matter the most.

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