24 June 2011

Reversing India's Turnaround

The back portrait aka "back shot" adds an additional perspective to the conventional front portrait, especially for street photography. The viewer of a front portrait looks at the subject from the outside, from the subject's dissociated point of view. The viewer of a back portrait looks at the world in an associated way, as if s/he is looking through the subject's eyes, into the subject's (...and the photographer's) visual world, and s/he is being seduced to play with the boundaries between internal and external expression. The vantage point from behind uncovers a long overlooked tradition of portraiture that flirts with the power of identification and mystery…

Facing the World, © Matt Hahnewald, people, Hinduism, young Brahmins, Indian man, South India, Tamil Nadu, Rameshwaram, Dhanushkodi, portrait, street portrait, double portrait
Facing the World, © Matt Hahnewald, people, Hinduism, young Brahmins, Indian man, South India, Tamil Nadu, Rameshwaram, Dhanushkodi, portrait, street portrait, double portrait, back portrait, portrait shot from behind, sikha


As much as the front can give away a person’s identity and characteristics, a photograph of one’s back adds an element of mystery by prompting more questions than answers. When that happens, even the most inconspicuous detail becomes worthy of observation in deciphering identity, circumstance and action.

Facing the World, © Matt Hahnewald, groupshot, people, Indian women, South India, Andhra Pradesh, Hyderabad, Golconda Fort, back portrait, street portrait, groupshot from behind, sari
Facing the World, © Matt Hahnewald, groupshot, people, Indian women, South India, Andhra Pradesh, Hyderabad, Golconda Fort, street portrait, sari

Facing the World, © Matt Hahnewald, people, Hinduism, sadhu, Indian man, Ladakh, Leh, portrait, street portrait, double portrait, Ladakhi polo
Facing the World, © Matt Hahnewald, people, Hinduism, sadhu, Indian man, Ladakh, Leh, portrait, street portrait, double portrait, back portrait, portrait shot from behind, Ladakhi polo

An image of a person from the back can be both puzzling and fascinating as one doesn't see the emotions from their faces and one can only assume what they are feeling, as the three back portraits above do attest...

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