“DesyClaire: Portrait with Yellow Rain Coat” by JC Cancedda

In a world where fast fashion and instant gratification reign supreme, meeting DesyClaire was like a breath of fresh air. A nursing student by day and an aspiring fashion model by night, she embodies a story of dreams, determination, and the art of self-expression.

As a photographer, I’ve always been drawn to faces that tell a story, and Claire’s was a novel waiting to be read. This post is a deep dive into the process behind creating a portrait that aimed to capture not just a face but a soul and how two different visions – hers of fashion and mine of portraiture – merged to create art.

Our paths crossed virtually through the vibrant communities on Instagram. Claire, a young emigrant from Cameroon, was building a presence, combining her aspirations in the fashion world with the realities of her day-to-day life as a nursing student. What struck me wasn’t just her fashion sense but the intensity and depth of expression in her eyes – a melancholy that seemed to speak volumes. It’s this unique blend of intensity, coupled with her unique fashion sense, that set the stage for our collaboration.

Claire’s approach to fashion is bold and unapologetic – big, vivid colors and contrasting geometric patterns that command attention. It’s a reflection of her personality, vibrant and full of life, making a statement in the visual noise of social media. On the flip side, my passion has always been dark, haunting portraiture. The kind that makes you stop scrolling and start feeling. The contrasts between our visions were stark, yet therein lay the beauty of collaboration.

The portrait we aimed to create was not just a picture but a narrative. Claire, wearing a bright yellow leather coat, became the embodiment of this merging of worlds. The raincoat, symbolizing her love for vivid expression against the backdrop of a more somber, introspective lighting setup, was our compromise. It was a collision of vibrancy and melancholy, fashion and raw emotion.

What are the TWO most impactful features that make your image a good photograph? Don’t be shy!

1/ IMHO, what makes this portrait a good photograph is not my skill behind the lens. It’s about the depth of connection that I forge with my subject. Here, technical prowess takes a backseat to emotional intelligence. I’m not forcing anything that isn’t already there. I know this may sound crazy, but I often will forego technical knowledge to stay in the moment and not miss what’s sitting in front of my lens.

2/ What moves me about this portrait is the less is more approach, the absence of context, and the minimalistic lighting. I love the contrast between the approach and the loud, vibrant yellow of the leather coat. The similarity between hers and the garment texture. And finally the complementary hint of blue in the dark background.

If you could make this photo again, what would be the ONE thing you would like to do better or different?

I wish there was a bit more depth to the background, perhaps if I had used a textured canvas. Just looking to add a touch more depth without broaching on the original minimalist approach.

Also, I go back and forth about having a bit of light on the background to help define the left side of her face.

JC Cancedda shared this photograph in the FRAMES Facebook Group.


JC Cancedda, Brooklyn, NY, USA




Equipment and settings

Leica SL2 + Leica SL Vario-elmarit 24-90mm f/2.8-4 ASPH
Lights: Aputure 120 d II with Softbox lantern modifier and Nanlite 30C Pavotube
Shot tethered to CaptureOne Pro

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Comments (3):

  1. Doug Galloway

    June 3, 2024 at 19:57

    Why cut off the top of her head?

    • Tomasz

      June 3, 2024 at 21:55

      Some photographers like this kind of very tight cropping. I think it works very well here.


    June 8, 2024 at 20:07

    it gives the photo a bit more tension and keeps the viewers eyes in the frame. It’s subjective of course. Try it, you will like it 🙂


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