beautiful people are everywhere. get them into your studio.

Hardly a day goes by that I don't see absolutely beautiful people out walking on the streets, in the coffee shops and at the grocery store.  This is Mousumi.  I met her when I did a press check on a print project.  I did what I usually do:  I told her I would like to make a portrait of her, asked her to check out my website and to call me if she felt inclined.  That's really all you can do.  But I try to do it when I am confronted with beautiful people because I know that if I do nothing I may never have that opportunity again and I'll regret it.

There is a scene in the movie, Citizen Kane, where on old man in a monumental office is being interviewed and he is reminiscing about his past.  He remembers a day in his youth.  He was about to take the Staten Island ferry out and was watching a ferry coming in.  At the front rail was a woman about his age that he described as the most beautiful vision he'd ever seen.  He wanted to go and meet her.  Somehow strike up a conversation.  But he didn't.  And his boat was leaving.  And he got on and left.
And eight decades later, with moist eyes and a hesitant voice, filled with emotion, he says, "And there isn't a day that's gone by since then that I don't think about her...."  The regret of entropy, of procrastination.

I think every portrait photographer has in mind certain kinds of faces, and people with certain kinds of energy, that resonate with their styles.  If you depend only on paid commissions to do your art you may never be blessed with the kinds of subjects that add a vital spark to your process.  Without that spark of energy all you have is a job.

I think one of our goals as artists is to discover beauty and share it.  To make our interpretation of beauty a part of the fabric of our collective culture.  It's a wonderful responsibility.


David Ingram said...

Excellent Post! Carpe Diem.

Ed Kirkpatrick said...

Nice post Kirk, but how does one approach an attractive woman, a stranger, ask her back to his studio and not come off as some pervert?

Enjoy your blog and books immensely, Ed

Anonymous said...

To add to Ed Kirkpatrick's comment: It also [probably] does not help if one is only an amateur or does not work out of a studio (i.e. works with natural light or at customers' weddings, homes, businesses, etc.). Still, I like the general theme of not letting opportunities go by.

Michael Gowin said...

Lovely portrait, Kirk, and great encouragement to boot.

When you do this--approach a stranger and invite them to have their portrait made--what do you offer them in return for sitting for you? A print?

kirk tuck said...

You'll have the best luck if you have your wife or significant other in tow when you approach someone :-) if that's not possible be clear that you are not pressing them to decide on the spot. You are merely offering them a chance to participate in art. If you have good work on your website and you are earnest and presentable you have a good chance of getting a call. If you are concerned that they may question your motives you can always tell them that it's fine to bring along a boyfriend (or girlfriend). I always offer a nice print of MY favorite image from the shoot as compensation.

I met and photographed Rene Zellweger this way back in the 1990's. It works more often than not.

If you are creepy and have ulterior motifs please don't ruin it for the rest of us.

Your best source of beautiful people to photograph will come from referral of people you've already photographed!

Danny Chatham said...

Obviously the decisive moment isnt confined to photography alone.Life is filled with them,may God grant us the wisdom to see them and the burden to share them,as He has you.Thanks.

Jason St. Peter said...

Kirk, great post. I was sent your way by someone I met recently. I host a photography group sponsored by SMugMUG in austin in which I see you use as one of your host. I would love to get you on our calendar to come speak with our group. It sounds as if you have quite a bit of good information to share with fellow photographers! I can send you an email with more details if you don't mind

Anonymous said...

How does an one know if he or she is creepy ?

kirk tuck said...

Oh.....I think you'll know. I don't want to profile but there might be a few telltale signs....maybe you're over 40 and still live in your parent's basement....maybe you wear black socks with shorts and drive an ice cream truck....people don't return you e-mails on model mayhem...you've never been asked to babysit. For anyone. No matter how desperate they may have been....you've been to more than one Star Trek convention....you bought a camera to "meet chicks". I guess we could do a whole blog on this kind of stuff and no matter what I write someone will take umbrage

Curt Schimmels said...

I've found your tip on allowing them to bring someone along to be right on. I also often have my wife or daughter nearby (the other room), and this also gives comfort. People are very cooperative when they feel safe. That to me, is the key, not only to get them to come, but also to get them to drop their anxiety and relax. That will result in more intimate, natural portraits.

Bronislaus Janulis said...

Nice post Kirk, though, a little painful, personally. Some of those missed ..... whatevers, linger in the soul.

Bronislaus Janulis said...

P.S. My "confirmation word" was most appropo: sense.

Thank you "master Kirk".

Greg Roberts said...

Along the line of having someone along to make your subject comfortable: A couple of years ago I was doing informal portraits of all the wedding guests at a friend's wedding. As I worked my way around the crowd I was carrying both my camera and my 2 year old daughter. I'd walk up to groups of people, introduce Gemma and myself, and then ask If I could take some photos.

The pictures turned out great, as everyone was relaxed and had natural smiles. The bride and groom were very happy with the results when I gave them an album the next morning at breakfast. Myself, I had a great time doing photography that was outside my normal comfort zone.

I couldn't carry Gemma for an hour now, as she is quite larger at 4, but it was great to do. I didn't feel alone as I approached strangers, and the guests were relaxed as I wasn't just a guy with a big lens interrupting their conversations.

Anonymous said...

What really makes your portrait work stand out to me, is your ability to make people feel comfortable infront of the camera and establish that certain rapport one needs for a great picture. It also seems to me, that it best works for you, if there's no commercial pressure involved.
Not that there's anything wrong with your other work, but there is just something very special about these portraits.

And thanx alot for the decent screensize.

Greetings, Oliver

Anonymous said...

Haha, just now i see two articles down, you're going on about rapport ... ;-)


Robert said...

When you invite someone to bring a friend you also get a chance to meet another subject. I find that beautiful people (especialy "inner Beauty") have beautiful friends.