Copenhagen-based Ken Hermann has been one of our favorite portrait photographers in recent years, for his projects that range from the documentary (Flower Man, Leftovers from the War, Shaman, Coal Miners) to conceptual (Crash Landed, Hollywood Characters). However, he also does a great job of creating a picture of a place by photographing its people — a tried and tested approach to visual storytelling, as each place has its own face to show and story to tell, so to speak. Previously, we’ve seen him photograph the residents of Brumleby, a historic neighborhood in his city. For his latest work, From the Block, he photographed some residents of Vapnagaard, a neighborhood in Helsingør, another historic town in Denmark.
A little bit different than his Brumleby series, Hermann photographed the residents of Vapnagaard solely in their own living rooms. He also did more than just basic lighting for his portraits. Instead, he made great use of lighting and color to set the mood for the entire series. By illuminating the setting in soft blue and lighting up his subjects’ faces with warm yellow, he created a nice separation between the subject and their backgrounds. This technique tells us straightaway what the focus of the frame is, even if everything is actually tack sharp. Even if the rooms essentially look alike, the stuff we see surrounding the subjects tell us something about them, like their taste in decorations, furniture, and even art.
With this simple but elegantly executed portrait project, Hermann gives us an idea about what we can achieve when we get creative with lighting. It’s just one of the ways we can combine lighting and colors outside of the usual studio work, especially the ever so popular neon style.