I am quite happy that portraits has been a focus in the last few months, and perhaps unexpectedly, it has been with the same people which has had a very unexpected benefit. "them brave souls", most certainly. coincidentally, I came across these two Irving Penn quotes, and the portrait of Francis Bacon by Bill Brandt has always loomed large over the thoughts of how to pursue portraits once I began, hesitantly.
« Sensitive people faced with the prospect of a camera portrait put on a face they think is the one they would like to show to the world... Every so often what lies behind the facade is rare and more wonderful than the subject knows or dares to believe. »
and therein lies the crux of a portrait. yes, most portraits do not have to go through this severity of thought: as they are just for fun, or an event, or photojournalistic in nature. perhaps some portraits that fit modern styles. yet, as in the engagement of a conversation, one likes to dig deeper, or alternatively, to seek to write an ode with a photograph to what is seen by the photographer. that is, the portraits is really an essay of how a person is seen through a viewfinder. the photographer has the obligation to be true, and compromise within the framework seen.
"take an awesome portrait of me" would be the new way to express that the job of a photographer is often taken to be that of glamorizing the person into a new level of appeal to the masses. perhaps this is changing with each generation, but the impression does persist. how does one push back on this expectation to make it a more intimate affair, and convince the person to trust the photographer to express what they see?
luckily, with these friends' portraits, there is a leeway in terms of having a few conversations prior to taking the portraits. in those conversations, I can express that it is not as interesting to take a portrait to make them "look good", but that the portraits essay does not seek to make them look bad either. still, the process demands that we go over the results, and I have to be sensitive to the fact that they will inspect in great detail for their appearance concerns.
there are three aspects at play here: how the person see themselves, how the photographer "reads" the person, and how the photographer likes to present the photo. (present is used to encompass composition and processing, if any, of the photo.) the photographer must remain the conductor through the entire process. something I have no difficulty doing is having a need to publish any of the photographs. this is because the pull from "social media" is nil, and often times, with some time given for the photos to be revisited, minds are changed. the latter has been one that consistently brings about a change of mind.
« The severe portrait that is not the greatest joy in the world to the subject may be enormously interesting to the reader. »
— Irving Penn
the portrait of Francis Bacon by Bill Brandt is hardly a flattering portrait, in a sense of it presenting the face in the usual norms of soft, well-lit, and more dominant in the frame (composition wise). the dominance of Brandt over the portrait is very clear, even daring to use high contrast printing — something that hardly becomes flattering to a person's features. yet, it signifies the process of portraiture, which is to let the photographer configure the composition and presentation to their liking, either because of an established style, or because they know the person and want to present them as they see them.
the composition not being as-per usual with a portrait can be noticed in the photo L.G. at the top. in a way, it demands a bit of knowledge (as I read it) about L and the composition is still extremely personal, not to L, but to me. there are many elements that come together, which were only seen once the frame was composed. there were no directions given, as the newspaper held enough of an interest, and the hand was telegraphing something that I had noticed in previous instances of hanging around with L. everything came clear.
In the case of F, the same can be said about many elements in the photos where it was easy to correct the aspects of the pose. yet, again, this is more of a natural, and frequent, way to see F during the course of a conversation (with the photographer or others). in that sense, the photograph is a better presentation of F's personality than much more alluring photos with respect to the expectations of others, or herself.
this is why it becomes important, at least to me, to remove "social media" in consideration of what/how to photograph a portrait. the idea that the most cherished photo from a session can never be shared because the subject does not approve should not get in the way of its appreciation and existence.
[ ps ] "draft" is to signify that a first attempt at the presentation has been made. in it, there is a recording of the ideas in the session, and also satisfy the desire by the subject to see some of the results. however, it will not be for a few months before I see how it should be in its final form. the notes from the session present in the draft will be overwritten in favor of a more detach appraisal, but the reason for the choice and significance of the pose will never be forgotten or lessened. there are already many details to correct in these two drafts.