4.23.2011

Inspiration. Intention.


I was photographed recently.  I'm not sure what the intention of the photographer was.  He wasn't being paid.  It seemed almost perfunctory.  I didn't look good, or gallant or brilliant.  More a deer caught in the headlights for 30 frames or so.

I took the photograph of Belinda, above, because her beauty inspired me.  I saw a mix of expression, grace and beauty, along with a light filled, rich and kinetic environment, the sum of which inspired me to grab the camera ever dangling from the side of my chair and softly, slowly and with great care, to enlist Belinda into a collaborative dance of photography.

Like most entanglements in life there was give and take.  Expressions lost to the vagaries of timing and bad technique.  Nuance gained by trying to overlay my emotional response to the physical reality in front of me.  To mix the subjective with the objective.  In the end it might only be a portrait that speaks to me. And that's okay because I am its primary audience.  But at its outset it was inspired by an overwhelming desire to capture the beauty I saw in front of me....

Note:  in keeping with our new philosophy of "Goodness and Light" this post has been edited severely.  It was more detailed.  Keep that in mind as you read the comments.

12 comments:

Trudy said...

This is really beautifully written. I think the dynamic of having another person or more people in the room isn't necessarily worse...but it really is different, as you pointed out. Ideally, that 1 on 1 portraiture session is great because of that human exchange at the minimum necessary for exchange...just two people.

Great post.

London Portrait Photographer said...

Great post Kirk. It inspires me to get my own portrait made. I need to get more of a handle on being the subject. It is something I have very rarely done.

Your thoughts about feeling cheated, that the exchange was a bit one sided, hit me as being important things ot avoid. I recently had a subject tell the world on Facebook that he really enjoyed his session with me and was amazed at what I could get in just three minutes. At the time this jarred with me because it discounted about 35 years experience. But you've given me another reason to ensure the subject feels a portrait to be a collaboration.

Anonymous said...

Kirk,

Can we possibly have visual access to that infamous photo of you, so at least we can judge, or smile and approve the choice made by the other photographer?

Anonymous said...

Kirk,
You're a very lucky man. You have a beautiful wife to photograph. Your film portraits are my favorites.

Anonymous said...

Jan Klier left this comment:

"Very nice post.

As you're exploring this, you should ask Belinda on her perception of you taking that photograph, and whether you translated your inspiration into something that she felt, or if she just perceived it yet as another exercise?

I totally appreciate your point about inspiration vs. exercise. But there is a question on whether it existed, or whether it failed to communicate, which is different.

Then there is the question on why the photographer did choose to shoot? Is it a job? Is it an assignment? Can you truly be inspired by everything in front of your lens unless you only pick up the lens if you are inspired? If you shoot enough to be a good photographer it's a challenge to find everything you do a genuine inspiration. Not saying you shouldn't strive for it. But it will run the gambit over time.

Many people are very hesitant to be in front of the camera, and when they do, they feel like it is a task they have to get done, a favor they have to fulfill, something they grudgingly agreed to.

That is one of the reasons I enjoy fashion photography with professional models. Everyone truly wants to be on set in that case, and it's a professional dance of everyone involved. Everyone plays their role on the team. And it's quickly apparent if someone is out of tune.

I admire the photographers that have the personality and communication skills to make your average subject at ease in front of the camera. It's truly a skill, and not everyone bothers to acquire it. In fact photography as an art often attracts introverts which are notoriously bad at personal interactions. Some do the logical thing and retreat to landscape as a subject, it doesn't need to get talked into being in front of the camera and feel it."


Kirk's note: In a moment of new iPhone ownership I accidentally deleted Jan's comment from Blogger and had to key it in manually. Sorry about that. And yes, I like the comment. KT

kirk tuck said...

Anonymous asked if we could have access to the infamous photo. The answer, from my point of view is: no.

Anonymous said...

Kirk, I see a lot of what you write in myself. We're the same type and I've experienced this generic situation myself.

My guess is you get the vision thing and part of the reason why you go on the rollercoaster of discovery during a shoot is to experience empathy. Am I right?

I had a long time and decent friend but he had a thing about deals. He also had a knack of photographing people in their absolute worst.

I got invited to a barbecue once and this gorgeous girl was ahead of me. Turned out we were going to the same place. Really, she was the most attractive woman I'd seen in a while. His photo made her look like a gurning pig. No kidding.

Maybe you could just draw a line. Don't mix the business of photography with this guy and get the photo destroyed. Other than that don't lose a friend. They get harder to replace as you get older.

Anonymous said...

Kirk, I see a lot of what you write in myself. We're the same type and I've experienced this generic situation myself.

My guess is you get the vision thing and part of the reason why you go on the rollercoaster of discovery during a shoot is to experience empathy. Am I right?

I had a long time and decent friend but he had a thing about deals. He also had a knack of photographing people in their absolute worst.

I got invited to a barbecue once and this gorgeous girl was ahead of me. Turned out we were going to the same place. Really, she was the most attractive woman I'd seen in a while. His photo made her look like a gurning pig. No kidding.

Maybe you could just draw a line. Don't mix the business of photography with this guy and get the photo destroyed. Other than that don't lose a friend. They get harder to replace as you get older.

kirk tuck said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Chase Palmer said...

Kirk, I know it can be a bad feeling to see an unflattering photo of yourself published. However, I wonder if this is not a good opportunity to "coach" your aspiring photographer friend a bit?

The hardest thing for me as I have learned to be a photographer is editing my own work. That difficulty of selecting his best shots, combined with his apparently un-engaging style in the studio sounds like a critique that could help him tremendously as he moves forward with his work. Have you mentioned any of this to him? He may appreciate the feedback more than you know.

John Krumm said...

Well said Kirk. You can see why self-portraits have become more popular. Image "sharing" and artistic freedom (and journalistic freedom) are part of the "ethics" of photography, and it's a complicated ethics. I personally try to rule out sharing anything too embarrassing to the subject, but it's not always easy to figure out what that might be. It sounds like in your case it should have been easy, but that the photographer saw something of value in the photo that over-rode not using it (like it was the best of a bad bunch, and he didn't think you'd mind, etc.).

yansen said...

You're always at best using this BW style, Kirk !