Archive for the 'Portraits' Category

Let’s get vulnerable

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Why do we have portraits taken?  I believe it is because we want a witness to our lives.  As proof that we existed and that we were here on this earth, even if just for a short while.  There is a vulnerability in the very idea that we want witness to our physical experience of an impermanent life.  It surely won’t matter once we are gone but we feel a certain security in thinking that our children perhaps will show their children or grandchildren a photo of us.  That they will tell stories of our beauty perhaps, or our courage or whatever part of us we want the world to most admire.  It makes us feel a little immortal. That a small part of us will stay here and be remembered.  That we will still be talked about and mentioned in occasional whispered conversations on a starry night.

In truth we are all a little frightened of being insignificant, that our lives will have been pointless sequence of breaths, devoid of meaning and all too quickly forgotten.  So while we are here, bound in our earthly bodies, we take photographs.  These photographs witness our daily existence.  They mark our happy occasions and show the world the part of us that we want it to see.  We are reluctant to reveal any part of us that we feel is not perfect, or in our tender eyes what we presume others want to see of us.  People are afraid to show their vulnerability, perhaps in fear of being judged, but we are all vulnerable to some degree.  Even the most confident of us.

There is sometimes a moment, when taking a portrait, when the subject has relaxed and has formed an easy relationship with the lens.  That that need for proof subsides and they go somewhere quiet and shake hands with their soul and suddenly there is all their beautiful vulnerability in your viewfinder.  It is usually at a time when they think you are not looking, when you as the photographer make a play for time and lay claim to changing your ISO or getting your focus right.

This vulnerability often presents itself in the beginning as nervousness. Tap into it.  The art is in allowing the subject to loose the nerves but retain the vulnerability.  It is so extraordinarily endearing when people are vulnerable, when they show a little more of themselves,  a little of their shadow self.  These are the portraits that turn my head and make me linger.  Our social media is awash with photographs of people showing their superficial selves.  It’s boring!  Give me a portrait that has humility and vulnerability.  Show me something of the subject that I don’t normally see.  Present me with a glimpse of their shadow self and make me gasp at the beauty I see there.

Find a way to make people linger over your portraits.  Make them want to stay awhile and pause there. Make them curious about the subject and most of all show them the unexpected.

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