Research/ Michelle Sank / by Lasma Poisa

Michelle Sank is a portraitist working within social documentary genre. Her work explores human condition and examines the issues surrounding identity and social and cultural diversity. She has worked extensively with young people from different social, ethnic and economic backgrounds.

 Within her projects, she looks at people that are related in some way, whether it be place, age, economic background or ideas about beauty. Michelle’s work allows us to observe the ‘type’ of person or even make a judgement about the subject in her photographs, yet the reading of such images may reveal more about the viewer themselves and their cultural awareness than they do about the sitter. Introducing Michelle Sank’s book Becoming (2006), Helen Lucey asks: ‘What is it that I recognize about them and what makes me uncomfortable with certain images? Could it be that certain photographs unconsciously contain dimensions of my own subjectivity that I’d rather not know about?’

When viewing photographs, we read visually and contextualise according to our experiences; when looking at portraits of people from a particular sports culture, for example, I would immediately assume that they are one-dimensional and boring. The photograph is incapable of portraying the multifaceted nature of a human being.

The portraits I have been taking during this module relate closely to Michelle's work. Visually I have taken inspiration in terms of composition and framing; contextually, photographing a ‘type’ of person, I am aware that the viewer will be attaching their own prejudices in reading these images.