I recently came across these four photographs of Francis Bacon by Cecil Beaton on the National Portrait Gallery website. They struck me so much I decided to write a short something about them.
I’m not writing about Bacon or Beaton here; each a master in his own right deserving pages and pages. But I came across these four shots and it felt wrong not to share them with the rest of the Lomography community. People who like myself recognise a good photo when they see one.
These four portraits were taken between 1951 and 1960. I believe each of them brings to the fore a character trait of Bacon’s.
If you take this photo for example, you can see a certain pride transpiring from Bacon. The way he has no problem looking at the camera whilst holding onto his paintings. Perhaps the way he grasps (or doesn’t) the lower painting, reveals that this photo is somehow ‘set-up’ – the hold is only half-hearted and the sitter might merely be posing.
In this image Bacon looks assailed, not just physically, but also on a deeper level: mentally. Bacon’s ‘disturbed’ state is perhaps at its most obvious in some of his harsher paintings; tortured souls within equally tortured beings.
Bacon in his studio peeking at Beaton as if asking whether he’s shooting. I think here one can note the stark contrast between this image and the first. Although both taken during the same session, one can so easily realise the difference in attitude between the two. Gone are the phony poses of the first shot, here Bacon is taken unawares, leaning almost comically like a clown on a wooden box at a circus. At first glance this photo comes across as a little funny I believe, revealing a streak of humour in Beaton. But looking at repeatedly, I feel it’s just plain candid.
This one’s more of a classic portrait. Perhaps the most traditional in approach of all four, but still undoubtedly my favourite. What I like the most about it is the shadow obscuring Bacon’s face. Metaphorical and reflective of the artist’s darker side perhaps, but also, just plainly poetic in terms of light and dark. The strengths of this photo, apart from its sitter and his expression, lies in the composition; the clever use of angles, always leading to the subject.
You can find out more about Bacon all over the web. Just for fun I’ve decided to add some images of a couple of his works belonging to the Tate Collection.