Fascinated By Portraiture
Ever since I´m shooting photos I am fascinated by portraiture. There is something special to photograph a person. It´s always a very intimate moment and you have to build a relationship to each person that is in front of the camera. After shooting 35mm for a while I wanted to try something new. Inspired by Nick Brandt and his wildlife portraits in "Across the Ravaged Land", I found out that he uses a Pentax 67 including a 105 2.4 lens for his absolutely outstanding work. Long story short: I got myself one in 2014 and was hooked instantly. It´s like the big brother of a regular SLR 35mm camera. I never really liked the waist lever finder of certain medium format cameras, so the Pentax was a perfect fit with its prism finder. Shooting people with this camera is pretty unique. It´s loud, big, beautiful and you only have 10 shots per film, so you definitely have the attention of your sitter. Besides my regular job as a commercial photographer, I always shoot portraits of actors, musicians or just friends in my free time. Over the years I collected a fairly amount of headshots shot on film from many different people.
In most cases the camera is loaded with ILFORD HP5+. I love the tones of this film and compared to the 35mm version it has a subtle softness that I really love. I tried to emulate the look with my digital camera a lot. However, it´s never the same and that´s exactly what I love about it. The way HP5+ renders skin tones is special and that´s why I keep using it.
People often ask me how I get my sitters to relax. Usually I never pull out the camera during the first 20-30 min of meeting. I like to sit down and have coffee and get to know the person first. That way I can already watch the persons face and observe the mimic and gestures. I use that later during the shooting. Normally I start with a smaller camera and only when I really like a certain combination of the light and the look I pull out the Pentax 67. Because it is so big, it can intimidate people, but most of the time they are really interested in the camera.
When you hit focus wide open at 2.4, the 105mm lens creates a really beautiful look, which is hard to describe. I start with simple "look straight into the camera", poses and after a while I try to work on different ideas together with the sitter. My main goal is to make the person trust me and that he or she is comfortable in front of my camera.
99% of the time I use natural light. I am a big fan of window light or clouded weather while shooting outside (at least for black and white photos). I don´t like to use artificial light. This is because it slows my process down and most of the time I´m not satisfied with the look.
Over the years I developed a workflow, that works best for me and the look I´m going for. I develop the film myself and scan it via a digital camera with a good resolution. This way I have a lot of information, that I can use for editing the photos.
Images - ©Erik Groß
About The Author
Erik Groß found his passion for photography through his first love; skateboarding. Getting to traveling the globe as a professional skateboarder and being around photographers through that, Erik was inspired to pick up a camera himself. Instead of the ‘action’, it was the culture around the actual skating that captured his interest.
Over the years, Erik developed a passion for portraiture and documentary work in particular. As his portfolio clearly shows, he likes the outdoors, traveling light and shooting even lighter. Erik lives with his wife and their two kids in Rostock, Germany and works, well, everywhere. But preferably in a forest somewhere.