I'm having a love affair with portraits right now. I love looking at work I've done and work that others have done. It's all about the lighting and the expression. Nothing else really matters.

I've been spending more time really looking at portraits these days. Everything from the early Avedon photos, in Paris to the fashion spreads in V. It's amazing how compelling the human face is when described by photography. I love images that are well lit. Even if the lighting is already in place by the grace of nature, and the photographer has seen it well.

I had a small studio on the second story of a crumbling downtown building that used to be called (no lie) the California Hotel. We had neither heat nor air conditioning but we did have laughably cheap rent, and I had a wonderful window to the north. I built my portrait lighting designs around that window.

In this case I loved the portrait so much that I subsequently dated, and then married the subject. I took this photograph back in 1979. About 36 years ago.

We obsess about gear (me at least as much as everyone else) but this was done with a Mamiya C220 camera with an ancient 135mm f4.5 lens. Could I do better now? Not very likely as there was nothing I wanted to improve upon. I still don't.

If you don't love your images maybe you just aren't pointing your cameras at the right subjects....


  1. All your potraits are great n shows your love for that trade. But the B. 1980 one still draws me back from the other recent posts. it egnites my imagination and makes me wonder and wander. It draws me in. For me thats the trade of an exelent piece of art. its so attentive it can almost explain the viewer why you Married this girl. It is ur wife right?

    Not many pictures have this trade.

    It even made me buy your book!!

  2. Is this how you met your wife Kirk? Would this be the first photo of her that you ever took? If so, it's a great one and a wonderful memory to have.

    Your last three sentences are about the truest thing you have ever written or ever will.

  3. "I subsequently dated, and then married the subject."

    Can't imagine why you would have done that! :o)

  4. Ah, Belinda. So beautiful. Thanks for sharing.

  5. Excellent post. Succinct and insightful. It is true lighting and expression are the key ingredients to a successful portrait. Add another hidden part: the photographer. It's obvious that you have a connection with the Subject in all of the portraits you've produced. In this case, there's even a relationship. This is what creates the "expression". People are not objects e.g. a Swiss watch. One can accurately portray a person in a photograph - but that's just documentation, and it's as if the person were a mannequin - might as well be shooting mug shot for a driver's license. For a portrait to be compelling, the photographer needs to draw something out of the person being photographed, something personal, something real. This IMHO is what you're good at.

  6. I remember using a Mamiya C330f with one of those 135mm f/4.5 lenses (a fine combo) back in the 1980's to take portraits of student board and senate candidates and members at a local university. I didn't have a North-facing window, but did have a couple of homemade softboxes that I used to soften the light from a mediocre 3rd-party flash. (Hey, it worked.) I can't say any of my pictures were as good as yours, but I was pretty pleased with the overall result, especially since all I had to go on was a Kodak book on making portraits. (In fact I think I still have that book somewhere upstairs.)

    That aside, this portrait reminds me of many of the other portraits you have shared with us. It seems that while your lighting equipment and cameras have changed, the portraits you make retain a certain "look" even after all of these years. Once again, thanks for sharing.

  7. Ok, be honest. Do you really love portraits, or do you just like an excuse to hang around with incredibly hot women?

  8. My Fiance is definitely my muse, she puts up with my constant snapping and makes me a better photographer. I never tire of finding new light to photograph her in. I'm not just saying this because she today told me i'm getting a Hassy 500 for christmas! It really affects my art. Lovely portrait!


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