All images by Dan Bannister. Used with permission.
Photographer Dan Bannister is behind the #wokeuplikethis photo project; which plays on the popular Instagram hashtag but specifically showcases professional models without makeup. Dan is a commercial photographer that works with models, makeup, and all the production elements you can possibly think of. But for this project, he tells us, “I wanted to create some images that were devoid of all the elements that go into typical shoot with models and present images that were more about the subject in a raw sense.”
We chatted with Dan about the process of taking portraits like this and the motivation behind it.
Phoblographer: Talk to us about how you got into photography.
Dan: Photography for me started as a hobby in grade 1 or 2. I remember using little flash cubes on a Kodak 120 camera to take “portraits” of my elementary school classmates and I still have the albums full of these images. As I grew up, my interest in photography was replaced by sports, guitars and cars and I didn’t really pursue it again seriously until after university. Eventually, it became more of an all consuming hobby and I decided I wanted to become a travel photographer. This was right before digital established itself as the obvious evolution of photography but, Canon had just came out with the 10D and it seemed to me like this made photography so much more accessible and more instantly gratifying so, I just started pitching magazines and publishers and eventually managed to get assignments to shoot guidebooks and travel features which I did for a number of years before my career just naturally evolved away from editorial travel and in a more commercial direction.
Phoblographer: What gave you the idea for #wokeuplikethis?
Dan: I love Instagram and I’m on it constantly. I came across the hashtag #wokeuplikethis and was kind of surprised to see more than 200,000 images exist on Instagram with that hashtag which is why it’s such an important element in the title of the project. Imagery and photography are now more important than ever, thanks to things like Facebook and Instagram which rely almost solely on visuals to engage us. The downside is that image and appearance have also become more important than ever in how you present yourself to the world. People almost decide whether they like you or not based on how you “appear” to the world on social media. Especially with some celebrity accounts, it just feels like there is no such thing as a spontaneous moment for many people in a public way and some people would never dream of presenting themselves to the world in anything less than perfectly groomed fashion and I think it’s kind of damaging.
It can’t be good for people’s self esteem to be following some of these social media accounts every day and encountering what they may not realize are perfectly controlled images or “moments”. I wanted to create some images that were devoid of all the elements that go into typical shoot with models and present images that were more about the subject in a raw sense.
Phoblographer: Approaching a subject like this can be tough for a model’s image. So how did you go about gaining their trust?
Dan: Some of the subjects are friends or are represented by agencies I work with and I told them I was doing a simple black and white portrait project and that there would be no hair, makeup or styling at all. I asked them to just throw something on and come to the studio and that was it really. I was really more interested in how they would present themselves after being told this. I’m flattered to say that the subjects were all very happy with the portraits.
Phoblographer: When you were photographing the models, did you give them specific instructions for posing? We ask because a lot of them seem very shy in the images; it delivers a very human side of them.
Dan: I really wanted the finished image to be as raw and void of emotion as possible. I wanted to capture a rawness in the subject, it was really supposed to be about the lack of everything that is normally in a photoshoot with models. I asked them to think of nothing and to try to be as blank as possible. Sometimes, I wouldn’t say anything or give them any direction at all, I’d just be silent for a bit and then ask them to relax and be blank. It can be very powerful to have a small group of people sit silently and think of nothing while being photographed and I’d like to think I captured this energy in the images. I’m glad you mentioned that it delivers a human side to the subjects. This is the reason the hair is moving in almost every image. The subjects, to me, are incredibly beautiful in their unguarded state and causing movement in the hair elevated that for me and made them that much more powerful.
Phoblographer: Why did you choose to work in black and white and why the effects on the edges?
Dan: Most of the time, I work in color for commercial clients so, I felt like it would add to the rawness of the images to just do a simple black and white. Same for the effect on the edges, it adds an analog element to the images that I really liked so, I’ve decided not to deviate from it.
Phoblographer: What do you want to do with the series?
Dan: I’m not sure. I am going to pursue it further and I hope it catches some people’s eye to the point that models start asking to be included in the series. I’m thinking about a possible gallery show or a promo book. I’d also like to expand the series to include men.