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Photographing the human body has been an eye-opening experience for Colin Pittman.
The Marystown-based photographer has also learned a few new technical aspects about the art form.
Struggling with his own weight and self-image issues over the years, he’s gained some perspective about himself, as well.
Mostly, however, Pittman says he has discovered he’s in a unique position to help people in a way he had not previously recognized.
“I feel it is a duty of mine now to build people up and show them the beauty they rarely see in themselves, the beauty others see in them that they don’t even realize,” Pittman recently told SaltWire Network.
Highlighting the body
For the past several months, Pittman has been collecting fine art portraits, amassing over 600 images from more than 60 subjects, both men and women aged 18-65, most from the Burin Peninsula, but a few from elsewhere.
They all highlight the human body in some way, whether it be differences in bodies, its resilience, and its ability to create life or to heal.
Now looking for a company to publish the portraits in a coffee table-style book to do them proper justice, with short, written pieces accompanying each chapter, Pittman is excited about the project, explaining his initial aim was much simpler.
With work for his photography business a bit slow following the initial COVID-19 shutdown last year, Pittman thought he would create and sell some similar-styled fine art portraits on an online service, to drum up some financial consistency.
“As I was doing it, I would get more and more people come in with, say, these different kinds of scars, and they would tell me the story behind their scar or how they came to have these marks on their bodies, or whatever, or some came in who had gone through a fairly drastic weight loss,” he said.
“They kind of started talking about why their bodies are the way that they are, and I saw there was much more of a story to it than just hanging one piece of it as a piece of art.”
Similar but different
Pittman said he had photographed subjects in a similar light before, but from a less vulnerable angle — people who were proud of their bodies and wanted to capture their youth.
“This was totally different in that I had to take these things that people were shy about, were nervous about showing others, and were, in many cases, uncomfortable with themselves, because of these marks and their shape and stuff,” he said.
Getting the subjects to let him in required delicacy, care and respect, he said.
“I wouldn’t say that was a challenge so much, but it was certainly something that had to be well thought out,” he said.
“You can imagine the first people who spoke to me about it. You have to be very careful about your wording and make sure they understand the artistic value of it.”
Pittman says the process has been beneficial for many of the participants, most of whom were putting themselves out there to a stranger.
“It almost got to a point where it seemed like, to me, the subjects found it almost therapeutic and, I guess, liberating to have their photographs taken, because it’s a very vulnerable situation,” he said.
While many of the shoots have been memorable, a couple in particular stand out, Pittman said.
One with a cancer survivor who had a double mastectomy was very meaningful and thought-provoking, he said.
Another photo session with a woman during the early stages of her pregnancy, a time when women are just beginning to grow, which can sometimes result in negative feelings, also came out “so lovely,” he said.
“I don’t know, the way that she photographed, the light and everything, it all clicked. It came out gorgeous. I’m very pleased with it.”
Pittman said his wife, Jade, has also agreed to take part in the project, and with some assistance from her, so will he.
Pittman said he’s been in touch with a pair of companies about publishing his book. Both expressed some interest, but neither offered any firm commitments.
Pittman said he’s looking for someone who will “eat up the idea” and believe in it. He’s also considering self-publishing a small run to see how that goes.
In the meantime, however, he intends to keep shooting.
“It’s not the kind of thing I want to do as a four-by-six flipbook or something. It’d have to be substantial so you can really appreciate the portraits,” he said.