portrait exhibition commissioned by brighton fringe

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Portrait Exhibition Commissioned by Brighton Fringe

WOW! The past few months have been a blast of energy and focus in my particular photo world.


Well, at the end of 2017, Brighton Fringe (England’s largest arts festival) commissioned me to create a large portrait exhibition. This was to feature 35 artists and creators who contribute to the Fringe. Not only that, but this would be my first ever exhibition… so, you know, I jumped straight into the challenge.

The project was a great opportunity to test my stamina and my ability to respond to such a broad brief. And all to be shot in a little over 2 months.

I knew that the exhibition was to be displayed in Brighton Station so I wanted to deliver bold, arresting images that held up in a busy public space and did justice to such a variety of talented people.

I set out to understand each subject, meeting with each of them and getting to grips with what they do as artists. This gave me an appreciation of their inspirations and energy. And then I could respond, in an entertaining way, to the unique character of each of them. I also wanted to capture something of the ideas behind the Fringe and a feeling of the city of Brighton itself, so I thought a great deal about locations and set-ups. Brighton is a very creative community, so there was a great response from local businesses (including the i360 and Hotel Pelirocco) who let me use their locations for some of the portrait sessions.

Inevitable challenges

Although I consider myself experienced when I set out on this project, there were still challenges along the way. But, you know, where there’s challenge there’s learning:

1 Portrait photography means being a good people person and time manager. And when shooting this many portraits with so many different schedules involved, these skills were paramount.

2 Patience is gold dust. Yep, all those schedules to navigate. But not only that there’s different personalities to work with and consider. Some of whom will want more control over the shoot. Some who are more reserved and take time to be drawn out in front of the camera. And more to consider. So patience and understanding (and setting one’s ego aside) are true advantages here.

3 Fight doubt and keep making. This one is obvious really. especially on a long-term project. There are moments of doubt and self-criticism that can make you want to stop the project. Especially around the half-way mark. At that point it was a case of not looking to hard at the work created and trusting in just doing the next thing. Getting the brain out of the way.

4 Don’t hold on to ideas too tightly and be prepared to improvise. I like to work as collaboratively as possible with whoever I’m photographing (either an individual or a large brand). Inevitably, this means ideas will be more fluid and that’s where I have to remind myself to keep putting my ego aside. This is not about me, it’s about my subject. I find if I holds too tightly to an idea the outcome is never quite as truthful or interesting. Whereas if I respond to the energy of the shoot (with original ideas present as inspiration), then the outcome is always more interesting or honest.

Exhibition details

The exhibition opens on the 5th April 2018 on Brighton Station concourse and is free to view. Go see it of you’re passing through or coming to Brighton Fringe for a show. I think it provides an interesting take on the talented people photographed, as well as an overview of what you can expect to see at the Fringe.

In the gallery above there’s a selection of images that appear in the exhibition as well as some of my personal favourites that didn’t make the final cut.

Tech Stuff:

I wanted to create as much unity across the 35 images as possible. Hence, I made the decision to shoot with one camera set-up and the same lighting wherever possible. So, everything was shot on my Fujifilm GFX50S medium format digital camera with either the Fuji 32-64mm and 110mm G lenses. I knew in advance that the final images would be printed at A0 size, so I wanted to exploit the image quality of the GFX for the best results.

Fujifilm UK interviewed me about my portrait work with the GFX and you can check that out on their blog here

In terms of lighting, I used a single Godox AD200 flash plus modifier and grid (mounted off camera) for about 90% of the images. Anything else was either natural light or (in one instance) a studio 3-light set-up.

All images © James Bellorini 2018. All rights reserved.

I’m a commercial and editorial photographer specialising in portraits, people and stories. I have worked with advertising agencies, design agencies, entrepreneurs, performers, musicians, DJ’s, singers, models, and culture and entertainment organisations/brands. Currently I’m shooting a long-term project for the National Theatre & have just mounted my first exhibition Inside The Fringe. Recent clients include: Breguet (The Swatch Group)The National Theatre, Innovision, UKTI, Siren Design, Glyndebourne Productions Ltd, Stone Nest, The Old Vic etc.