What's in a portrait for me?

I am, on the whole, a fairly mediocre portrait photographer but I masquerade as a much better one.  And I get away with it because I cheat.  As often as possible.  What do I mean?  Well, I'm sure there are a number of photographers who can make just about anyone who stumbles by their camera look better than they do in real life.  They can make fat people look thinner.  Stupid people look smarter.  Ugly people less ugly.  I can't do these things.  In fact, I dislike photographing most people (which is a real sore spot for my CFO ) and I am drawn most often to make portraits of people who fit into fairly narrow types.  I love to photograph women but judging by the covers of every "how to" photography book published in the last five years or so, there's nothing unusual about that.

But the ones I choose have alluring and intriguing eyes, good cheek bones and dark hair.  The eyes give the viewer something quintessentially human to look at.  The cheek bones check the subconscious, internal mental box that says, "ideal beauty" and the dark hair is easier to photograph against different background and adds a nice, automatic contrast for the flesh tones of the face.

If I am no better a portrait photographer than the next guy, then why do I persist in doing it?  I guess it's because I am fascinated with each person's story.  As if the amalgam of stories gives me a big bell curve with which to understand my fellow humans.  Portraiture is an invitation to ask personal questions, to spend time with interesting people and to acquire new stories and new points of view.  In the end, for the most part, the print, or the image on the web, is just a souvenir of the shared experience.

The reason "the studio" persists lies in its nature as a private place where the shared experience of portraiture can be practiced in a comfortable and controllable space.

I love to take photographs of people.  I'm not choosy about styles or environments.  I like the studio because I can control the lights but I like the spontaneous nature of the street.  All I really need is the right person to shoot.  Then I can make both of us look pretty good.


Bill Millios said...

"I am, on the whole, a fairly mediocre portrait photographer..."


I aspire to your level of mediocrity.


Robert said...

I agree w/ Bill. who's your CFO, your wife?

kirk tuck said...

Robert, Thanks. And yes, the CFO is my wife, Belinda. (she is also the subject in the two portraits above...).

Bill said...

"alluring and intriguing eyes, good cheek bones and dark hair"

Yep. It's amazing how we are drawn, consciously or subconsciously, to certain subjects. Good job not overfilling the shadows.