Portraits are what photography is all about.....for me.

Lou and the Hasselblad.  The studio on San Marcos St.

I don't know why they do it but they do it all the time.  People talk to me about photography and they are so desperate to show me what they've recently shot that they whip out their iPhones and start flicking through images.  And sadly, many times the images are not portraits.  They show me tiny landscapes which makes my internal critic yawn and wince.  They show me "abstracts" which means they liked the color or shape of something and snapped a photo.  They show me architecture which I sometimes like, sometimes tolerate but mostly ignore.  And they show me pictures of cats to prove how sharp their new lens/camera/flash is.

I have a new dodge to get out of looking at the images as they are flicked past on the screen.  I apologize and point out that I didn't bring my reading glasses and so am incapable of truly appreciating the "art."  At this point they start using two fingers to enlarge the photographs.  Perhaps they mean to scroll across and depend on my "persistence of vision" to tile together their masterpieces in my mind.  At that point I generally just tell people to stop.

The one exception is when someone shows me a really nice portrait.  Then, mystically, my vision improves and I can share in the sharing.  Now I'm not saying that there's anything wrong with pursuing landscape photographs.  Ansel Adams had a good run with the genre and I suppose some other people have too.  And Lee Freidlander certainly made some hay with his abstracts, as did Gordon Parks.  It's just that people are so much more interesting to photograph and look at.  In a way it's because portraits can be virtually interactive......at least they will look back at you.

(Above shot on medium format black and white film, Hasselblad Camera.  180mm Zeiss lens.)


Arg said...

An absolutely gorgeous photograph! It is probably just me but the reflection in her eyes.... is there a way to avoid that without losing the magic?

Nick Giron said...

I've returned to " the portrait" my self and have been getting wonderful results by double diffusion on my main and simpled settle.

I would show you. But, alas, methinks my iPhone is made for younger eyes.

Nick Giron said...

Ahem, "simple setup".

Not what my phone decided to type.

Gino Eelen said...

... and it shows in your work.

Stunningly beautiful portrait, and not only because the model is beautiful.

Emotionally it feels like you're looking straight into her soul and her soul is looking back at you.

And technically I love the definition in the hair, how it almost (but not quite) blends into the background black, and how it contrasts with the smooth high-key skintones.


Jim said...

I'm a landscape guy Kirk but I like your portraits.

Glenn Harris said...

I'm really enjoying your B&W portrait posts. Could you share some details on the lighting used back in those medieval days when assistants changed film backs?

William Souligny said...

There are so many pictures of people out there taken by point-and-shoots for Facebook that it seems that there should be nothing more to see. Somehow, I always stop and look anyway. I don't know, maybe something about really wanting to know who they are and to ask them to tell me their "story." Photos of people are never dull for me and I especially enjoy your rich and connected portraits. My wife tells me you are really a muse and are leading us closer to each other through your photographic interpretations. I like that thought very much.

atmtx said...

The highlights in her eyes really make them sparkle. Beautiful!

I'll have remember to load up my iPhone with portraits, the few I have ;-)

almostinfamous said...

hey what action did you use for this? i think the contrast is too high. have you tried using the high pass filter to soften the skin?

Bold Photography said...

An old mantra says something like "stay true to yourself" -- the hard part there is in figuring out what the heck this really means.

Partly - this means that copying another's style simply won't work - at least in the long run, because it's not YOU. It also means that once you discover who you are - stick to it.

When you're true to yourself, it shows in the work you do.

kirk tuck said...

Almost infamous, What's an action?

Nathan Black said...

Hey Kirk, you might actually like my latest project. I picked a URL that reflects what I want to be doing with my life and everything:


Just simple conversational portraits. Keep it simple, lather, rinse, repeat.