Posts Tagged 'portraits'

Who do you want to be?

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I ask you this. Who do you want to be? What sort of person do you aspire to be? What delightful traits do you see in others that you wish for yourself? Do you admire a person’s tenacity or their dedication to worthy causes? Or the extraordinary effort they put in to maintaining good health or perhaps just their desire to learn and grow. So what is stopping you from being all these things? You can be anything you want to be.

When it comes to being an artist I want you to question what sort of artist do you want to be. Now by this I do not mean do you want to be a landscape photographer or a sculptor. I mean how do you want to move people with your art. Do you want to merely take photographs that will be placed on a mantelpiece? Simply reminders of a moment captured with a camera and lens. Or paint a painting that is bought simply to occupy a space somewhere in a home because it matches the colour coded décor.

Would you not rather produce a piece of work that stops people in their tracks? That makes them loose their breath and linger a while. That makes them wonder what your thoughts were when your brush touched the canvas, or what sorrows your soul has suffered to be able to put words together so sweetly that they tumble off the pages and find spaces to settle in their hearts. Do you want to take portrait photographs that make the viewer pause and wonder about the life of the person they see there. Portraits that make the viewer question what it is that draws them in and what beauty they see there in those eyes.

Do you want to travel and take photographs of children in far off places who’s lives are so tragically sad they make the viewer weep at the very thought of it all? Or carve a sculpture that the makes a stranger want to reach out run their hands over it, finding every tiny crevice and think with tenderness of the passion with which you carved it.

Or perhaps you want to photograph landscapes that make people linger and dream of standing there beside you, or capture the movement of an athlete that inspires awe and envy.

Whatever it is….do not be ordinary. Seek to be the artist you want to be. Search out others to inspire you, look at their work and discover what it is that makes you lean in and then find a way to put that quality into your own art. Find a way to make your viewer lean in and linger. It is surely worth it.

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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