1.11.2017

Momentarily fatigued writing about video. More fun today writing about portraits.

Michelle 2016.

This is a photograph of my friend, Michelle. I have photographed her off and on for about 25 years now. I feel like we were just kids when we first met and started working together. I cast Michelle in a bunch of print ad campaigns in the 1990's and she came across as the perfect (aspirational) young "soccer mom." In fact, I considered her to be the gold standard for the higher end real estate projects we were routinely called on to produce.

She got in touch recently and asked me to take portraits of her to use for public relations in her speaking career. I was more than happy to oblige as I have a beautiful black and white portrait of her on the wall, just to the right of my desk. Looking at it gives me a boost of confidence when I'm working on bids and proposals because I can look at that print and know that I have been able to produce work I love in the past, and there's a better than even chance that I can do it again. I'd say, given that I've had the print on the wall since I moved my office here 20 years ago, that Michelle has already pre-paid me a hundred times over for any new portrait I might make of her now.

This image was done with simple lighting and straightforward camera work. The lights were studio electronic flash with one head into a big, big modifier to the right of the frame and the second light in a small, 12x16 inch, softbox between Michelle and the background.

The camera was a Sony A7Rii and the lens was the (too sharp) Sony 70-200mm f4.0 G.

I did a bit of post production to soften Michelle's skin tone and retouched a few wrinkles around her eyes. You might not like retouching and you may think I've overdone it but this is more like what Michelle looks like in my mind's eye. And what I wanted to create was an honest, kind, happy, warm image of someone who embodies those qualities.

In some senses a good portrait is part of the routine nature of my business. But to me, when it comes to friends in the studio, it's more an opportunity to catch up, share good news and bad news, and bolster each other to face the future with optimism, and a sense that we are all connected to each other. Some more strongly than others.


Here is a photograph of Michelle from an earlier session (1992).
She helps me understand that beauty transcends time.



6 comments:

ODL Designs said...

"I have a beautiful black and white portrait of her on the wall, just to the right of my desk. Looking at it gives me a boost of confidence when I'm working on bids and proposals because I can look at that print and know that I have been able to produce work I love in the past"

Great line here, and something I often do myself... it is easy to be a little deflated by a recent project that wasn't a visual masterpiece, and good to remind oneself of the work we ARE capable of as inspiration.

Glenn Koury said...

This made my day. No superlatives can do this justice, so I'll just say "stunning" (followed by an infinite number of imaginary exclamation points).

The B&W photo of Michelle that you posted a few years ago caught my attention, not only because of the beauty of the subject, but your explanation of the portrait, medium format camera and lens. I learned a new word that day, "fall off".

When I purchased one of your early books, I probably subconsciously do so just to have my own copy of the photo of Michelle. And lo and behold, I remember when I first clicked on the link for "A selection of Kirk's favorite photos", that picture of Michelle was at the top of the list. I assume it's the same one hanging on your wall.

That photograph draws me into the image every time I look at it. It never gets old and always makes me feel good. Therapy of sorts. Well done! (And your friend is just as beautiful, if not more so, today.)

Glenn

Fred said...

The contrast between the style of the two portraits is very interesting. I like the shading on Michelle's face and the highlights in her hair in the recent photo, not to say that I don't like the other portrait or the harder shadows. It is certainly not a question of one being better than the other. Two excellent portraits.

Edward Richards said...

I wonder if one's view of the two portraits depends on your age, i.e., what history shaped your notion of a portrait. I love the black and white, with the dramatic lighting and look of the lens/format combo. The new portrait is beautifully done, and just what the client needs, but with the sameness of most modern color portraits. What I mean is that the color aesthetic is that every portrait looks like a well lighted still that could have come from a video roll. This is not a criticism - it is what the clients and public expect a color portrait to be. You certainly appreciate the difference and have posted color with more dramatic lighting. Anyway, my generation, which is about the same as yours, was shaped by Karsh among studio photographers, and a world of black and white reportage portraits. Younger people's world has been shaped by evenly light color work, mostly video and TV.

Raymond Charette said...

Aren't women just beautiful??!!!

amolitor said...

These are beautiful! There's a combination of soft/glow with sharpness that reminds me of that absurd Cooke large format portrait lens. Obviously there's more here than that technical detail, but I was struck by it!