Archive for Keys of a Human Portrait
Since committing myself to a lifetime of image creation I have come to realize a few things that define me as such.
Perhaps my greatest interest and fascination in life is that of other people – I am perpetually curious of the complexity of my fellow mankind. Out of this curiosity comes the desire to know deeply most everyone I meet and to document their being. And to document them in their own honesty – to grab an element of their being that can only be seen in the millisecond of a captured image and not just in any millisecond, but a moment of pure truth. A moment that shows with absolute definitive clarity – here stands this person, they are real, they are worthwhile, they are beautiful, and this is their truth. This photograph represents everything that they are right here – right now.
As I’ve continued to grow within my art and my career I’ve come to realize a process that guides my ability to capture what I believe are truly honest human photographic portraits. Here is my guide:
1.) Recognizing Universal Human Beauty.
This is Hannah.
When I took this photo Hannah was not allowing me to simply take a photo of her. She was taking one of me as well. She was meeting with me mind to mind. She was not afraid, nor happy, or sad, but calm and calculated, she was examining what I was doing and understood it. We never spoke a word to each other. But, we communicated. And for a moment I heard with clarity what she said. “Here I am. You can take my photo, but I’ve already taken yours.” Hannah could see in me what I was looking for in her.
Recognizing Universal Human Beauty - is the first thing you need to be able to do in order to capture an authentic photographic portraiture. The hardest part of this is recognizing that beauty is first and foremost an internal feature not an external one. Because of this you have to be searching for beauty beyond the obvious. Not everyone acts, appears, projects, understands, or knows beauty. But, everyone contains it somewhere within themsevles. And in order to capture it you need to see it.
2.) Seeing What One Cannot See In Themselves.
This is Lily.
Lily is like watching a waterfall. She is in constant movement. She is loud, and bold, fast, and wild. Her energy is powerful. She could knock you down and pick you up before you even knew what hit you. Her energy flows up and down and swirls around, she’ll laugh a moment, cry the next, splash the shore and flow right past you.
Lily is just beginning to understand who she is. She recognizes parts of her power, but she doesn’t know what it means yet. I’ve seen Lily cry so hard and for so long that she fell asleep with tears running down her face. When asked why she was crying she said, “I don’t know. I just have to.” Oh, Lily I understand.
Seeing What One Cannot See In Themselves - is a complex but equally necessary task in being able to create an honest portrait. From time to time you might think perhaps your friends, your spouse, your children, or even a stranger know you even better than you do… and you think that because in some ways – they do. We are all such unique beings that in our own uniqueness we can’t fully see ourselves for who we really are. We can’t see our own totality outside of ourselves. But, it is there, and there are things about us that others can see of which we cannot. These are special things. Little pleasures or pains we give to those who can see them.
3.) Reaching for the Core.
This is Kate.
Kate and I met for the first time on this day. And I dug deep. I was reaching for her core. I asked her perhaps a hundred questions. I joked, I pried, I teased, I made faces and jumped around, I stood on chairs and laid on the floor. I moved her around, dressed her up, and dressed her down. We ate junk food – catfish and fried chicken. And I got what I wanted – I could see her. I found her truth. I got my pictures, but there was no camera – just an artist seeing his subject.
Digging deep into someones core is a dangerous thing because in order to get there you’ve got to open up your own core. Capturing someone’s essence means giving them a piece of yours. That’s the deal – it’s an unspoken agreement and a fair trade.
I captured Kate’s core on that day and later she captured mine. This portrait is a record of an agreement to trade essences.
Reaching for the Core - is an intentional effort to find out exactly who you’re interacting with. When you’re taking someone’s portrait you need to know who they are in order to represent them to the world through your images. If you can’t find out who the person is that you’re making a photograph of then your image won’t be fair or accurate to them, or you, or anyone who sees it later. As an artist you don’t need to present your subjects in obvious ways, but you should seek to represent them in honest ways. This is the underling ideal of the portraiture.
4.) Matching Energy.
This is Cory.
Cory is an environmentalist, an artist, and a sage. She is definitely a person who understands energy. When you look at this photo you can tell what type of energy Cory is projecting out to us. Cory called me out with her eyes just a split second before she called me out in words. I don’t remember exactly what she said seconds after I captured that look, but it had to be something along the lines of, “You’re full of shit.” And, her smile says, “But, I already knew that…” And whatever I said to prompt her look I knew was full of shit too. In an instant Cory’s expression is both a question and an answer. We were on the same page. Two friends goofing around with our two dogs in a park on a calm winter day.
Matching Energy – is a crucial tool in the photographic tool box. But, it is a tool that cannot be bought at your local camera store or on-line retailer. Matching energy means – meeting people where they are. Every single human on earth is a living breathing thing full of their own energy. If people were colors there would be six billion colors on earth because we all have our own unique energy. Our energy flows in us, through us, and all around us. And it’s ever changing. As a photographer if you want to capture someone’s essence then you better get right up next to it, feel it, and flow along side of it. It’s like a dance. If you can move with someone then you can know them.
5.) Live in the Moment.
This is Toy.
C’est la vie! Such is life. Toy was a person who understood the importance of living in the moment and blowing a kiss to the wind. The day I took this photo she told me about her childhood, about her family, and she shared with me all kinds of lessons she’d learned along the way. Her stories were wonderful and her energy was amazing. We had fun together. We were playing. She said, “Whatever is going on in your life there is always a way to make it fun. And you need to… life would be too hard if you couldn’t find a way to have a good laugh.” I spent 4 hours with Toy on that day and we were both 100% completely and totally present to those moments.
Live in the Moment - photography is nothing more and nothing less than a moment. If you’re not present – you can’t see it for what it is – a moment. An incredible moment.
A very good friend once told me that there are 4 Corners in the human soul.
In the first corner are all the things that you know about yourself and so does everyone else.
In the second corner are the things that you know about yourself, but no one else knows.
In the third corner are the things that friends and family know about you, but you don’t know about yourself.
And in the forth corner are all the things that you don’t know about yourself and neither does anyone else.
As a portrait photographer I see it as my mission to look for answers in every corner of the soul. And what I find there becomes my art.