52 Project // Black and White natural light portraits

Hot on the heels of my 366 project, I am now announcing my second major project of the year - project 52. 

A few weeks ago I wrote a blog about Jane Bown. She was the portrait photographer for the Observer newspaper for 60 years and was renowned for her simple, straightforward approach to portrait photography.

Her preferred camera was the Olympus OM1, which she used with a 50mm or 85mm lens and no lights or flash. She famously used to turn up to the shoot with her cameras in a plastic shopping bag.

Jane only need ten or fifteen minutes with her subjects. She would typically place them in a chair next to a window and then take no more than two or three rolls of film to get her shot. Virtually all of the photographs taken during her entire career were black and white and she used Kodak Tri-X almost exclusively.

I had planned on buying a film camera in order to undertake this project but with a second child on the way, I have other priorities. Instead I am using my Canon DSLR with either a 50mm or 85mm lens. My settings will always be f2.8 1/60, as Jane usually shot, and I will process the photograph using VSCO Tri-X film simulations and very little other post processing. I'll use natural light, placing my subject in a chair by the window whenever possible.

To mimic shooting on rolls of film, I will limit myself to a maximum of 72 exposures per session.

52 Project // Portrait 1 // Audrey

Black and white natural light portrait of Audrey

  • Focal length: 50mm
  • Aperture: f2.8
  • Shutter Speed: 1/60
  • ISO: 100