Pastel portraits, an old style revisited

Pastel portraits, the past revisited.

Close up of young girl using a digital version of an old film technique called pastel portraits

Our young model in this image is Leila, who you may remember appeared on this blog a couple weeks back. This series of portraits was created in the studio. Leila had just finished tossing her hair all over the place for a photo series. She rested for a moment, and while she did, an idea formed. Many years ago, way back in the day when we used film. Excitations led the way in Australia with a style of photography we called pastel portraits. At the time we had been playing with a number of ideas and one struck a cord with us.  Probably the simplest, yet purest form of creating studio portraits we’ve ever used.

Pastel portraits  was simple a photographer, a small high quality 35mm camera and a standard lens. Our subjects sat opposite the photographer, up close and our sessions would begin. The pastel portrait look was created by soft  lighting, a heavily diffused lens and a film stock designed absolutely NOT designed for portraiture. It was so wrong that it was right. We created hundreds, maybe thousands of pastel portraits over a few short years. Then the film was discontinued. New and improved films became available, but unfortunately nothing came close to producing the same effect.

The success of pastel portraits was due not only to the unique look, but also the intimate contact the subject had with the viewer. Being up close and personal with a camera, and having a relationship with a camera up close. Somehow produced images that compelled you to look into them. Probably more so than any style of portrait photography since. The image above of Leila isn’t a pastel portrait, but it reminds me of the style and to a degree I guess we could say it was a digital equivalent of the original pastel portraits style.

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