Most portraits concentrate on faces. These don't. A few concentrate on hands. So do these. Sort of. (The link takes you to the gallery.) But they're hands holding glasses; or more accurately, plastic cups and beakers, or cans of beer. It occurred to me that you can tell a lot from the way someone holds a glass, and what you can't tell for certain, you can make up. Every picture here is the starting point of a story, though admittedly some might be minor variations on the same few stories. If I had the time and energy, I might write some of these stories. Quite possibly you can write better ones. Do.
The series began in Arles in 2011, at vernissages, launch parties for exhibitions, and has continued desultorily ever since at each Rencontres. There's general picture of a vernissage at the ENSP (Ecole Nationale Supérieure de la Photographie) in the 2016 report. On our old site there are also accounts of Arles 2008, 2009 and 2010. I can't remember which picture was the first in the series, but I think it was either the man with the Leica or the picture above.
They were all shot with Leicas, because I only ever take Leicas to Arles. The lenses were either a 35/1.4 Leitz pre-aspheric Summilux or a 50/1.5 Zeiss C-Sonnar. Some were shot "blind", pointing the camera in roughly the right direction and pressing the shutter. This wasn't for reasons of stealth: it was just to get the right viewpoint without crouching down. Obviously, at that point, I was scale-focusing. Often, I'd set the distance to one metre (the closest focus of either lens) and stand the right distance from the subject. That's one reason that some of them are a bit soft and blurry: poor focus, or camera shake or very small depth of field. Another reason was that I'd been drinking too. All are full-frame, uncropped.
The alliterative French title, Verres sans Visages (literally, glasses without faces) works better for me than the English title, but even though they were shot in France, this is an English-language site and I didn't want to frighten people off. I wondered about captions, but I don't think it's possible to write good ones: the pictures speak for themselves. Likewise I'm not sure about titles. The picture at the beginning of this piece (and at the beginning of the gallery) calls out for Cigar with Rosé, but that's a bit twee, and the last picture in the gallery, reproduced below, could well be called &U (pronounced, "and you"). But he was smiling when he made the gesture. I think it was humour rather than aggression. You don't get much aggression at Arles. This is in itself interesting. As I say in the 2016 report, can you imagine the effect of all but unlimited free alcohol in most of the English-speaking world?
These pictures are not Great Art. They're barely even reportage. They are an odd blend of the anonymous and the intensely personal. But with any luck, they'll make you think about all kinds of things including anonymity and personality. In particular, they may encourage you to think about how and why and where we drink, and about what other people can tell about us, or think they can tell about us, from the way we hold our liquor.
Go to the pictures in the Gallery (Glasses without Faces/Verres sans Visages)
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Words and pictures copyright (c) Roger Hicks 2016