The best portraits aren't about photography. They're about connection.

This is my brother in law, David.  He's bright, fun, super-smart, and twenty one years older than this image of him.

Shot with a tiny Novatron 220 flash in a tiny studio with a Yashica Mat 124G camera on medium speed black and white film.  I like this portrait of David better than most of the portraits I've subsequently shot on systems many multiples more expensive and sophisticated.  When did we re-aim our focus and our attention from the subject to the equipment?  How can we move it back?

I expect that the remedy is looking to our early work and finding the things in it that we like.  That's a good reason to sift thru stacks of old prints from time to time.

The outpouring of posts this evening isn't from any hypo-manic compulsion. (Well,  maybe just a little) Rather it is the result of sifting through an enormous number of old favorite photos in order to put together a presentation due up in June.  And of course there is always the five presentations I'll be giving at the Austin Photo Expo the weekend of the 15th and 16th of May.  Maybe it's also the presentation I'm giving to another group this Sunday.   It's fun to see the full circle.


Thanapatra said...


Wolfgang Lonien said...

This is a wonderful photo, Kirk. And I agree with you on portraiture. Amazing on how one can never get tired of watching those.

Mike said...

One of my favorite portraits was taken with a Yashica Mat of my wife and oldest daughter on Agfa 100 film. It was so sharp my wife noticed her contacts that she was wearing that day. But, more than the equipment choices (or lack thereof) was the expression and connection of that portrait. I agree with your way of thinking; it's just too easy to get hung up on gear and miss making that connection.

Nathan Black said...

I think part of it for me is not switching equipment so quickly. I've had my camera for the better part of 3 years now. I've been using the same lenses for 2. My focus isn't on the equipment any more because I'm used to it. I know where everything is and I don't even have to think about how it works. I just shoot as often as I can and keep it on me as much as possible.

Anonymous said...

The simple power of a good portrait

We didn't re-aim, the marketing departments took over the conversation and commodified everything. More megapixels, speed, power, bragging rights. 'Branding'.
I think that illusion has become more important than quality. You don't need to make a quality product to sell the illusion of quality, you only have to rely on the hubris of the buyer to perpetuate your myth.
After a time you have a population that no longer possesses the critical sense experience to make a valid determination. I see an increase in the concept of of relativism. Many don't care to invest the time and energy to acquire more than a passing knowledge about the latest 'brand.' Meh, this is just as good as that....
I'm either a cynic or a curmudgeon. I hate being ambivalent.