A Favorite Portrait from the film days.

This is Senator, Kirk Watson. A Democrat from Texas.

This is one of my favorite portraits. I probably like it because I really like Kirk Watson. He was the mayor of Austin for a while and did a great job. He's always be personable, kind and patient with the people working around him. He isn't a prima donna politician. And finally, I think his heart is in the right place...which has meaning no matter what side of the political spectrum you call home.

It's also one of my favorites because it is informal, relaxed and collaborative. So much gets written about lighting and gear but the real magic, where the rubber meets the visual road in portraiture, is getting that elusive quality called "rapport". A meeting of the minds. The intersection of greatest commonality. Shared experience and shared purpose. That's what makes people "smile with their eyes."

And fortunately, or unfortunately, it's not a component of photography that you can buy. There are a lot of books about lighting and portraiture but none about how to talk to portrait sitters in a meaningful way. Or why you should read novels and magazines and see some movies that don't always have scenes where stuff blows up. Why you should read the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal. Many times your photographic knowledge and creativity takes a back seat to keeping up your side of a conversation.

Technical stuff: Shot with a Hasselblad 501 CM, 150mm lens, Fujichrome. Lit with two Profoto Monolights. One large softbox. One grid spot on a zoom reflector.


Bold Photography said...

Ah - you've hit on the exact reason why I never became a pro photog... I have to be 'nice' to people... :-)

MyVintageCameras said...

I enjoy a good portrait, but I'll never do it well because I've always been too shy for the 'rapport' building that is necessary.

Kirk Tuck, Photographer/Writer said...

All you have to do is ask the right questions and sit back and listen. See something you like and then hit the shutter. It's a great way to get to know someone. And I've never met anyone who didn't enjoy talking about themselves, their work, their kids or their hobbies.

Bronislaus Janulis / Framewright said...

You may have the "tip" of the millenium here.

"And I've never met anyone who didn't enjoy talking about themselves, their work, their kids or their hobbies."

Good job!

John said...

With every story you recount of the hushed and forgotten Days of Film the more I lament not having been conceived just 5 years earlier so that I may have had the chance to taste it.

Candid photography at its finest. :)

Anonymous said...

You can learn so much by just watching someone and the way they move and express themselves. Great post and wonderful photograph!

John: I am 26, and just started shooting 120 film. You are never too young to pickup a camera and give it a whirl. I am loving it. I shoot more with my 645 camera these days than my digital. Next step: learning how to develop on my own.

- Elizabeth Councill

Wolfgang Lonien said...

Mr. Watson looks like the friendly neighbor and gather next door - and if someone is that was, then he deserves to be shown that way. You did a wonderful job in capturing this, Kirk. And thanks for the tips with the talk as well.