Helen Bartlett / Family Portraiture

An Urban Family Photo Shoot in London – Just One


Creating a graphic image

I’ve always been drawn to lines and patterns in my work. Black and white photography celebrates the graphic elements in a picture and I find it fascinating how the eye is drawn around an image, taking visual clues from each aspect to read the story. One of the joys of photography for me is, over the course of a morning, making sure I get a real variety of images from portraits and family shots to pictures that are a little bit different, a move away from the norms of family portraiture to embrace a more artistic approach to fine art children’s photography.

I’ve been photographing Laszlo for seven years now and our annual shoots are always a high point of my autumn. Each year Elke and Peter think of fantastic new locations, often places with interesting architecture and each year we spend a relaxed morning together taking pictures and having fun. I often get some of my favourite images of the year from our sessions and each year I push myself further to create something new and exciting that will improve on everything I have done before.

This picture stood out for me immediately. We had found some table tennis tables on our exploration of the area around Paddington Basin and next to them was this bizarre, slanted, mirrored table. I can’t imagine it was meant for table tennis but I’m not sure what else its purpose could have been. Whatever it’s prime purpose it made an excellent element in a complex composition.

I’m always drawn to reflections and I immediately set out to create a photograph of Laszlo playing table tennis with himself. It wasn’t long before I realized that there was more going on, the lines on the table created these strong visual guides, echoed in the leading lines of the underside of the bridge above. It’s a very urban picture and I love it.

However the element I love most and the one that, for me, elevates this picture above the others I took in this spot is the position of the table tennis ball in relation to the ceiling lights and their reflections. Having just missed his shot Laszlo is caught in mid swing completely focused and the ball is perfectly placed in the arc of his arm. If it had been in front of the bat it would have been lost on the left hand side in the line of the front table, a line that perfectly matches the net on the game table. But here, the ball stands out, we see it immediately and our eyes tie it together with the other, equally sized light elements – the lights and their reflections. Another set of diagonal lines are drawn.

It’s a complex picture but one that I’m really pleased with. The rest of the session is fantastic too and I’ll look forward to sharing more in the future. But for today, I hope you enjoy Just One from our recent family photography session in Paddington.