The Top Off The Head


We’ve all seen ’em – the portrait series done with the top of every head cut off. Perfectly good exposure, wonderful lighting, interesting poses, attractive subjects…

And every blessed one of them topped like a soft-boiled egg.

I’m starting to think it is a technique taught by art schools and TAFE colleges and that the students will not be allowed to graduate if they do not follow suit. Either that or the equipment they use is far too heavy for them and they just cannot sustain the camera position high enough for the time it takes to shoot the picture.

While I don’t require anyone to be formulaic with their shots – except me – I do think that one should at least let people see the entire head of the subject in the shot. It may not be a good head but it is the one the person came into the studio with and it seems a little arrogant on the part of the photographer to judge it unworthy of being seen.

If pursued as a genuine artistic statement it begs the question of whether some other bit should regularly be hidden – should all sitters be required to thrust their hand into the bosom of their shirt a la Napoleon Buonaparte? Or into someone else’s bosom…Boy, I can hear the police sirens now.

In fact the only legitimate excuse I can think for lopping off the top of the shot is if the subject is a hipster with a man-bun. Even there, I would think it a better choice to do it with a hedge trimmer rather than a Hasselblad.

Mind you, these are just thoughts off the top of my head…


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