February 13th, 2017
Gwyn Headley

by Gwyn Headley

Managing Director

Don’t know the word? Neither did I until I searched for a way to describe the way fotoLibra contributors preferred to photograph people.

Tergiversation means the literal turning of the back — that is, the tendency of most photographers to photograph people from behind, primarily because they don’t wish to cause offence or go through the tedious hassle of obtaining model releases.

I ranted and railed against this — and I Was Wrong.

There. I’ve said it. I admit it, and I apologise.

But I hedge my apology with numerous sub-clauses and conditions, provisos and reservations. In normal life PLEASE photograph people so we can see their faces, and if you seriously want to sell people photographs in this litigious world, you must get a model release. It’s as simple as that.

So why do I now say I was wrong to forbid photographs of people’s backs?

For the simple reason that it’s rare today to find a novel that doesn’t feature a photograph of someone’s back view on the cover. Have a look at these recent publications:

Back View Covers

What’s the reason for this? Well, fashion as much as anything. Book publishers are ovine in behaviour — as soon as one of them gets a bestseller, others stumble over themselves to mimic the success story as closely as possible. Clearly there was a recent bestseller with a haunted, lonely figure on the cover, so now everyone else has piled in on the act.

Please note that these are not simply photographs of people from the back. They are solitary, anguished, haunted folk, struggling with inner and outer demons. And another reason is that they probably don’t require model releases!

So more of these please. Not group shots, just wild, mournful, tragic heroines. And the odd hero, of course.

I secretly wish that on the back covers we could see the front view of the haunted, lonely figure.

Tergiversation, by the way, in case you’re as interested in words as I am, has a darker meaning: the action of ‘turning one’s back on’, i.e. forsaking, something in which one was previously engaged, interested, or concerned; desertion or abandonment of a cause, party, etc.; apostasy, renegation. Also an instance of this; an act of desertion or apostasy.


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12 Responses to “Tergiversation”

  1. Walter Rawlings says:

    Putting the front view on the back cover is such a brilliant and witty idea – I bet that a publisher will nick your idea before the year is out.

  2. Trevor Bounford says:

    One gets such an education subscribing to fotoLibra. I’d have given the definition of tergiversation as “discussion of some of the less engrossing novels one might have read”.

  3. Ian Garfield says:

    I am instantly reminded of that great classic film, “Carry on Regardless” where Kenneth Williams’ character is assigned a job as a model for a photographer – unfortunately it is for the latest in beekeeper’s protective clothing, thus obscuring his face!
    Perhaps that’s why you don’t see the face of the model, because they have a face to stop a clock…..??

  4. In all the years I’ve been a photographer I reckon sometimes the best side for some folk is the back. Say what you want, it’s a blessing to be asked not to take from the front. The last time I was requested to do that was when photographing a lovely elderly lady who from want of completing her bucket list wanted to pose nude, a wish stemming from girlhood yet never accomplished. She was a sweetie and suggested a rear view for no other reason that she didn’t wish to portray her wrinkled stomach. I obliged and discovered she had sent the photo as a Christmas card to her friends demanding they should strip for a portrait or were they too chicken… A game woman and if I’m honest, would love to photograph her again, but will never ask of course.

  5. David Carton says:

    LOL I thought I’d add
    Tergiversation to the tags on this image: http://www.fotolibra.com/gallery/684323/contemplating-the-view-severn-beach

    Sadly the fotolibra spell checker tells me there’s no such word 🙂

  6. Alexandros says:

    Such an amused text. thank you 🙂

  7. Mike Law says:

    Over-rated in my opinion.
    I tend more to capture peoples faces from far away, like in my banner. Have a look.