The very serious business of making portraits.

I love to make portraits. I love that not all of my subjects are required to smile. I love that we can spend time talking about life while we're making portraits. I love to work in black and white but I don't fear color. I love light that can be both dramatic and flattering. I love the contrast of dark shirts against light skin. I love longish lenses and continuous lights. I love going back and looking at old contact sheets to look at the "paths" not taken and then re-scanning and reprinting to see if my tastes have grown or changed since we last peeked into the contact sheets and made our choices.

I love feeling the day slip away outside my windows while the slow and comfortable process of making a portrait unfolds. I love to hear the snap (with miniature Mercedes Benz door closing sound added in) of the shutter and feel the waft of photons fly through the room.

But the part of the portrait experience I like best is what I did half an hour ago. I sat down with a stack of contact sheets and went slowly through them, looking at every frame. And then I found something I'd never really seen or paid attention to before and I zero'd in on it and scanned the negative and worked the file.  And now, regardless of whoever else likes the image I have made a little gem of art for myself. Something special and intimate and non-repeatable.

The same day never happens again.

I count myself lucky that I can still make a living doing the work that I love. Not every client wants to step outside of tradition and popular taste and embrace a distinct style, and that's okay because I can switch gears and become a traditionalist for at least the duration of a shoot. But there are enough people out in the brave big world who like new, different and bette and they are the bread and butter of what we do.

While I guess it helps to learn  how we did it in the bad old days I think we should embrace our own vision and press it forcefully into the world of commerce. How else will the paradigms change?


Anonymous said...

So simple, so nice!

ODL Designs said...

Wouldn't it be nice if we could get more clients to see the work, or see themselves the way we see them? I am working through a series of portraits of clients for a marketing piece and I am using a harder light for deeper shadows (I am a fan of high contrast), of course it isnt the most flattering light for everyone, but we are finding good poses, angles etc. and really working to bring out the character of the subject.

However, when you show the subject the work, they often choose a completely different shot, maybe its the more conventional shot, maybe its the shot the disguises a prominent feature but personally I find honestly in portraits a personal preference, but convincing clients very difficult.

Great post as usual Kirk.

John Krumm said...

This one looks classical in form, like a renaissance painting. Love how the curves of the arms echoes the curves in her neck and face.

Karlen Mkrtchyan said...

I love this portrait. It is the style I love.
I've been shooting only for a couple of years and I find that I really love big soft lights.

Cameron wieght said...

I can still make a living doing the work that I love blog. I love the contrast of dark shirts against light skin. money making businesses. thanks .........