I like the idea that imperfections help make an artwork more accessible. I translate this to mean that portraits which are over-styled will never be as satisfying as portraits that are a reflection of the moment.

Usually I crop a bit tighter to the top of the frame. My first thought is that I've left too much head room in this portrait of my friend, M. But when I try to crop it I lose the square and too much of the wonderful and energetic background. I see the wisp of hair that's come away from the well tended majority and created its own extra diagonal just over M's left eye. Common practice would be to have a stylist rush in an cement that errant wisp back into the fold. But the "imperfection" makes the portrait more real for me. And to stop the process of interaction we had embarked upon in order to maintain order seemed like a bad gamble as well as a nod toward too much compulsive neatness.

The common practice now seems to be a push to strike a "sexy" pose when young women are photographed. I like seeing M. look into the camera in a strong and confident way. Style dictates a slight turn of the body so one doesn't photograph squared shoulders but, again, I think the shoulders balance the image in a way that adds a graphic element often missing in portraits.

Finally, I understand that I've (unintentionally?) centered the image around M's eyes. I have no explanation or excuse other than the idea that this was a reflex on my part because I found her eyes to be so compelling.

It's a portrait replete with "errors." It is a portrait of a beautiful person. The errors make the whole of the work more accessible to me.


Wolfgang Lonien said...

It's a wonderful photo of a strikingly beautiful young woman. And even technically it's about perfect. Just look at the depth of field, that is what I meant when writing about medium and larger format. It may be achieved by computers one day, but this here, my friend, is what I call real art. And I'm pretty sure that M. and her whole family love this photo just like you and your family love the ones from Belinda and/or Ben. What better reward for one's work than that?

Anonymous said...


I vacillate between 5 or 6 portraits on this site as to which is my favorite. This is one of them. Thank you for your thoughts and the portrait. More posts like this with portraits and thoughts. Also thanks for the previous two posts.


Wayne said...

Thank you for this.

amolitor said...

If it looks good, it is good. Literally. That's all a photograph does is "look" after all. thanks

Lenya Ryzhik said...

Just another thank you for your recent thoughts on portraits. The examples are familiar favorites, but it is always wonderful to see them, and to read your thoughts on them is very instructive/helpful/useful/you-get-the-idea.

Paul said...

I like most of your portraits and this is one of my favourites. I would much rather see imperfect crop and composition with fantastic results like this, than the over photoshopped absolute hair and skin perfection portraits posted on social media. Your portraits always seem to capture the essence of people and makes me want to meet them in person.

Peter said...

Works for me! There seems to be no shortage of people who have just learnt the rules, want everyone to know they know the rules, and then try to enforce them on others. If this portrait was shown at the average camera club it would garner exactly the criticism you outline. Seeing beyond the rules is a rare capacity. Makes me want to rush for my William Eggleston books!
Peter Wright

ag said...

Hi Kirk. Beauty should be allowed to stand on its own. This and many other portraits you share with us all capture that somewhat elusive "soul" of the sitter. Her eyes are captivating

I can't remember what post it was, but in the one I'm thinking of you mentioned that doing portrait work is somewhat akin to falling a bit in love with the person sitting in front of you. I have never been able to track that post down. I was wondering if you might have time to elaborate on that in a future post. I found that idea similar to my own feelings when I manage to get someone to sit for me.

I know you're crazy busy, but I'm sure we would all enjoy your thoughts on this.

Thanks so much for your blog.

ag said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
ODL Designs said...

Hey Kirk,
If you want to have some down time and watch an interesting documentary by a very entertaining maker you should watch Marcel Theroux's In Search of Wabi Sabi. It was a concept introduced to my by an old friend, it is a Japanese word that somewhat describes "perfect imperfection" and should be a word more used.

I always equate it to attractiveness, where that little imperfection makes someone more attractive, not less.

The whole documentary is on Youtube if you do a google search.

Anonymous said...

A beautiful subject, a beautiful light, a beautiful portrait! Bravo!
This is what is important. Let's forget rule #1, #2, #...