A World That Others Can't See... with Benjamin Youd


Our role as photographers is to capture a world that others can't see, and in this process we leave a little bit of us in every photo that we take. In a way, every single one of our photographs is also a portrait of ourselves. In this series, A World That Others Can't See, I ask fellow photographers to talk about an image from their portfolios in order to discover the stories behind their work and to learn about the person behind the lens.

For the first post of the series, Benjamin Youd talks about his image 'The Writer'. Ben is a London-based photographer who loves documenting natural emotions and interactions between people in a quiet and non-obtrusive way.

Ben says: "This image was taken as a part of a commission that I was sent on for housing charity, Shelter. I've called the image 'The Writer', as that symbolises a lot about the subject that I photographed.

'The Writer' © Benjamin Youd

'The Writer' © Benjamin Youd

"The initial brief was to travel to Bristol to meet with a lady who in her older years, had decided to gift the charity as a part of her Will. I was sent to take a few portraits to accompany a write up about the gift that she was giving them. When I met the lady, and we talked for an hour or so about her life, I realised that her story was worth so much more than a quick portrait or two. So, I ended up spending the entire day with her, talking in her apartment and walking through the grounds of the retirement village that she now lived in.

"She told me how much she loved to be involved with her community, and how despite living on her own, she kept herself busy with a variety of activities, such as drawing, writing, holding workshops, yoga, meditation, and playing the piano – to name just a few. I found her attitude, and approach to life amazingly inspiring. So, as we talked the hours away, I documented some of the activities that she described to me with such enthusiasm.

"This particular image depicts her love of writing and story-telling. Something she's liked since she was a lot younger, and now passes on through her own experience, as she engages young people in writing classes and workshops.

"My intention with this shoot was to make it as natural as possible, so although I did bring along a set of consistent lights, I didn't end up using them. They would only ever have been used in this occasion to brighten up the ambient light, but fortunately her living room had a huge set of west facing windows, which let in some really beautiful light. The fall off of the light was pretty dramatic as you went further into the room, but this allowed for a more dramatic approach, using deeper shadows to define features.

"I was the only one on this shoot, which is often the nature of working with charities. To some extent, working in this way is quite freeing, as you really get to connect with your subject, and pay attention to the setting and light. It also limits the amount of kit you can take with you, so you're often looking for the best available light.

"I think at the time, I was using a Canon 5D MKII, and this would have been shot with a 24–70mm f2.8 lens, at around 35mm to get the wider angle. Metering for the light hitting the subjects face from the window enabled me to get more of a dramatic and high contrast image."

Thank you so much, Ben, for being so keen to take part in my series and for showing us your amazing work! You can see more of Ben's beautiful work on www.benjaminyoud.com.

If you haven't read the previous posts of this series, you can check the whole series here. I hope you liked this new post and stay tuned for a different photographer each month!

Photo credit: portrait of Benjamin Youd © 2018 JC Candanedo

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