Into the World of The Upside Down

“I like to turn things upside down, to watch pictures and situations from another perspective.”— Ursus Wehrli

Today’s Rant by Joe Farace

In the Netflix series Stranger Things, the “Upside Down” is an integral part of the plot but I’m not sure I understand its application to the world of portraiture. What I’m referring to in another trend (read “Trends in Portrait Photography”) I’ve noticed in portraits displayed on the Internet, especially  Instagram. You can follow me on Instagram at joefarace.

The trend I’m referring to is photo-graphing female models lying on a sofa, bed or some another piece of furniture so their head is at the bottom of the frame and is upside down. I first thought that this style was a homage to pinup models from the forties or fifties, but when looking at one of the premier practitioners of glamour photography of the era, Peter Gowland, I didn’t see similar poses. Although to be fair he occasionally photographed models lying on their back or side, although the face was then in a horizontal direction and not upside down.

And to be doubly fair some of these upside down portraits can be quite dramatic and are, at least, not photographed with wide-angle lenses used close to the subject (a now passed Internet trend) producing distortion between their face and the body.

In general, I find these upside down images disconcerting; seeing a mouth where there should be eyes, which I think is the focal point of any portrait. And I suspect that one of the reasons some subjects like this look is they have a fear of being photographed. Yup, that’s a real thing. Scopophobia, scoptophobia, or ophthalmophobia is an anxiety disorder that’s characterized by a fear of being seen or stared at by others, as in a photograph. Some portrait subjects like these kinds of images, I suspect, because it doesn’t look like them.

As I have said here many times, this is not a ”my way or the highway” blog. You may love upside down portraits and so do your clients or portrait subjects. I’m cool with that. What I’m saying is not to expect any upside down portraits from me anytime of the future.

Screen Shot 2016-03-26 at 9.13.43 AMIf you’re interested in shooting portraits and how I use cameras, lenses and lighting in my in-home studio, please pick up a copy of Studio Lighting Anywhere” which is available from with, as I write this, new copies selling for$17.50 (plus shipping,) just a few bucks more than used ($15.34,) both cheaper than the Prime price.

Author: Joe Farace

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