Over the summer I spent a week taking (at least) one portrait a day as an exercise in observation and connection.
I think about taking people’s portraits a lot, so trying to get out of my own way on this topic and see things in a new light is a bit like trying to learn a different way to walk. But the fact that it is so close to my most instinctive self is arguably the exact reason I have to shake things up.
So I posted a note on Facebook and invited folks to take a slot, first come, first serve. One a day. Filling the week took about 45 minutes. Beyond that, the rules were simple. We agreed on a place. The subject brought themselves in whatever manner they chose, and I shot.
It got kinda complex from there.
There’s seeing, and seeing. The second one, the trickier one requires patience and, well, flow. A key element of great portraiture is being able to quiet the ‘pictures are being taken!’ energy and tune instead into the deep essence of the subject. To see the person in front of you, and then create the image. That’s challenging work that you simply cannot phone in.
Silences happen. Awkward silences happen. Shots don’t work and your subject can tell. In the midst of trying to keep the energy good, you may accidentally stomp all over it. The camera can intimidate instead of inspire. The list of ways to de-rail is endless. But so are the ways back in. And my job is to be awake and aware of the person in front of me so that I can continually bring us back to their individual spirit.