06 March 2012

On the Portraiture

"A portrait! What could be more simple and more complex, more obvious and more profound."
- Charles Baudelaire, 1859



Life...

This is the single most important element of photography that I absolutely have to photograph. Its the summation and hub of every element or aspect of photo that I endeavor to shoot. And if you drill down from there in order of importance for me, then next is the nude and then the portrait takes the tertiary role. Everything else that I do are either in supplement or complimentary to those three primary focuses for me. Life in general is what I endeavor to capture and in its purest form, the nude represents my favorite aspect of that, but the portraiture of my model is the deepest connection I have with the nude and is probably the most powerful aspect of anything I do.

Does that make any sense? I do some interior/architecture photography. Its still a representation of life, as in someone's expression of life as they see it for either a functional or aesthetic purpose. I photograph events and occasions which are moments of life taking place. I do still-life photography for my fine art work. This is evidence of life that it has existed and left its mark. I have photographed death which is the culmination of life or rather the conclusion of one aspect of it. I photograph life and death along with everything in between, as most every photographer does, I guess, to some degree. And like many, I do have my specialties. I will shoot almost anything and add my particular style of interpretation to it, but my primary focus in life is the nude and the portrait.


The interesting thing about the portrait is that it does not need to be nude. In some cases, the difference is not obvious and then sometimes it is. Whether a close up or the bust, the portrait still remains the most powerful aspect of photography, I believe. It is powerful because its limits are boundless. A good portraiture does not have to have pleasant features to be impactful. Exposure does not have to be correct, nor does even the focus. Sometimes, in the same way interesting ruins or abandoned buildings can be appealing, rough facial features can also draw the attention. However the portrait has one other distinguishing component that no other genre of photography captures and that's the connection that any human being can have with the subject by peering into the eyes. Even in some cases where the viewer cannot see the eyes of the subject, there can still be an implied connection between the mind of the viewer and that of the subject. You might wonder where the subject has come from, what they feel, or how they came to be. There is a voluntary transference that takes place which can draw in the viewer unlike no other depiction of any image.


"Who sees the human face correctly: the photographer, the mirror, or the painter?"

- Pablo Picasso

Mesmerizing, hypnotic, and even intoxicating can be terms ascribed to portraitures that are done well. This is why I love them above landscapes. I was looking through some of my images from my hiking expeditions over the last few years I've been in Las Vegas. I will go with people from the meetup groups I belong to or with close friends of mine. Ofttimes, I will go alone. However when I do go with people whom I may know or not, its funny how I'm one of the few photographers who will return from these trips with almost solely portraits and hardly any landscape. I was recently asked to licence a photo of Big Falls, a major natural landmark at Mt. Charleston, here in Nevada for a local publication. I've been up there several times, but had to look hard to find a good shot. Then when I found one, it wasn't anything that I had initially edited. Pretty much everything was of faces. Faces along the way. Faces with the falls. And faces along the return trip. Its the human condition that I shoot, although that may be a term quite overused. Most of my portraits are not posed, but rather candid shots in the moment where the subject may or may not know I'm taking the shot.





Heads. Faces. Some people are more interesting than others and for me, that starts often with the hair and then the eyes. Hair will often get my attention, but the eyes will draw me in and then I think to myself that I need that person's head. I tend to like faces that seem to tell a story or which may make me what to know about this person. Its interesting on the things that draw me to one person over another, because this is how I see the world. I am constantly looking at people. Its like a radar. I can pass through a crowd and there might be only a few faces that bleep in my range of scope. Some ping quite strongly with me. Others may ping less strongly, but my desire to photograph their portrait is no less as strong. What can I say? I like faces.

"Every portrait that is painted with feeling is a portrait of the artist, not of the sitter."

- Oscar Wilde

2 comments:

unbearable lightness said...

Sensitive, insightful portraits, T! I want to know how you would answer Picasso :-)

Photo Anthems.com said...

I would say none, but God. We all see one perspective of everyone else's face, our own. I think even the mirror can be fooled. But I would imagine there is still a blueprint for everyone that holds the correct version that we are not privy to.