As a viewer, I personally experience portrait photography differently than many photos. Great portraits make me feel like a personal connection with the subject. When the image gives me a glimpse into their world, into who they are as people, I get to laugh with them or cry with them and my live becomes richer through knowing that small part of them.
“It’s one thing to make a picture of what a person looks like, it’s another thing to make a portrait of who they are.” – Paul Caponigro
As a portrait photographer, if the photograph I create doesn’t portray some aspect of the subject’s personality or experience, then I haven’t done my job. That portrayal is the core of the art form – it’s why it’s called a portrait. It’s also by far the biggest reason I love portraiture in general.
The great Richard Avedon said “A photographic portrait is a picture of someone who knows he’s being photographed, and what he does with this knowledge is as much a part of the photograph as what he’s wearing or how he looks. He’s implicated in what’s happened, and he has a certain real power over the result.” This idea is a powerful, and one of my primary goals when shooting portraits is to facilitate that process.
Creating portrait photography
When working with a portrait subject, it’s incumbent upon me to make them comfortable and to encourage them to exercise the power they have over the process. My goal is to provide the opportunity for the subject to reveal themselves. A great portrait is a means for the subject to connect with the audience. That connection doesn’t happen unless the subject first invites the viewer into their person, and that invitation is only extended when the subject feels safe in sharing some meaningful part of themselves.
Helping the subject do that – and then capturing that moment when it occurs – is why I love the creative process of portrait photography.