For me, the most memorable, powerful and provoking portraits of all time share a common thread, regardless of the subject’s age, their gender, ethnicity, vocation, whether they’re a refugee, or a rockstar, whatever it is whether staged or set up, captured quickly, or over an extended period of time, whether painted, drawn, or captured on film, whether tack sharp or blurry, these portraits are simple, strong, and true. I think they convey personality, they convey presence, emotion, values and ideals. They are not contrived or fake. In short they are authentic and real. They make us feel something. They somehow awaken the senses. And I think in simple subtle ways, they get beneath the surface, and they remind us what it means to be alive. They expand our understanding of life, of what it means to be human, and to be given this gift of time.
I photograph to show people what they really look like, I look for moments within moments, when the genuine is revealed. Anyone can take a camera, point it at another human being, press the shutter and call it a portrait. But a portrait of what ? Exterior, or surface only ?
I like to think of a portrait as a dance, two people working closely together to collectively produce a performance that moves not only its audience, but themselves as well. Each taking turns to lead the other, and where a relationship of trust is built that acts as a solid foundation from which more is given by each performer as the dance progresses.
The portrait is an exchange, where both photographer and subject give and receive in order that honest and truthful work is made.
Photographing people as I do is a privilege. Whether it’s a 2 year old that’s bouncing around my studio, a CEO in their luxury office, a creative covered paint, or a mother that’s just about staying awake. I love my job, because I learn so much from every one of you that I photograph.
This question has many answers and will vary from photographer to photographer, so let’s look at it from my perspective so you can get an idea of what to expect should you hire me for your commercial head shots, creative portrait, environmental portrait or children’s portraiture session.
Let’s begin with a commercial head shot. A commercial session can either be shot in my home studio, or at your workplace. I can photograph just you, or your entire staff. Depending on the numbers involved, a staff shoot will give each participant anything between two and fifteen minutes. If you are in my studio and we are working exclusively then expect the session to last around an hour.
My role is to show you how to look your best in a photograph, and to do this I need to teach you what to do and how to do it.
How often during a typical day will you think about what your expression is doing ? I’m hoping you answered, rarely. It’s just not something we consciously do, our expressions take care of themselves, or at least our subconscious does. That is, until we step foot in front of a mirror or a camera. Probably the only times we are completely conscious of the expression on our faces. Where a mirror allows us to stare right back at ourselves we have the ability to adjust what we’re doing immediately, but when we look into a camera we lose that luxury and have no idea what our faces look like. This is where I come in, it’s part of my job to let you know whether your face looks good or not. In essence, I become your mirror.
I will coach you through the entire session, my goals being to get your mind off your face, and for you to forget you’re in front of a camera. This is when the magic happens.
During our session we’ll constantly be reviewing the images, making small tweaks where necessary in order for us to achieve our goals for the shoot. I always shoot tethered, which means that once the images are taken they are immediately sent to my computer which gives us both instant feedback and to keep us on track.
So as you can see, I want you to enjoy the experience and to take home more than just the images we shot. I want you to take home a new you, and two hours is all it takes.
The one hour time scale is pretty much transferable between types of portrait, so the same will apply for creative, environmental, and children’s sessions. However, as you would expect the structure of each genre is as different as the images are. Creative and environmental we spend more time in context, and with children more time in creating an atmosphere of trust and understanding. I’ll expanding at length on the process of photographing the little ones in further posts.
I hope that I’ve given you a little insight into my process, if you have any questions, then please do leave a comment below or get in touch using your preferred means.
My wife gave birth to our first son, Moses, just over a year ago. Like all parents, we love him dearly, and have about a million photos of him on each of our cellphones. Moses wasn’t the best of sleepers, so the first 8 months were a bit of a haze for us, so it’s when we flick through the photographs of him that we truly see who he was during this time. Often to cries of “I don’t remember him being that small/cute/chubby/hairy/long.”
A photograph is proof. That something happened, someone existed, and that we felt it was important to have something to remember it by.
We live in a “throw away” society, where consumerism is king. Where everything is easily replaceable, and holds little value. Where the vast majority of the photographs we take live on a hard drive, cloud account, SD card, or cellphone. History, in my opinion, is being deleted by the terabyte.
It makes me terribly sad to think that most Millennials or post-Millennials haven’t, and won’t ever, hold a photograph and that the only time we truly look at a photograph seems to be when it’s contents are no longer with us, when the memory is all we have left of them.
Photographs of myself and my wife have taken on a new significance since we’ve become parents. I recently asked myself the question, what does Moses, and our future children, have to remember us by ? Other than our wedding photos, there’s very little so say who we were, and what we loved doing. It’s clear we need to invest in creating future memories for our family, and in a format that can be passed on from generation to generation. A printed photograph rewards you with the same feelings as you get when you’re holding a printed book, our enjoyment is heightened by the involvement of senses seldom aroused when viewing a jpeg or an e-Book.
My wife has always loved printing photographs, we have lots of them adorning our walls, and she takes great pleasure in creating photo albums for the rest of our family to enjoy. The goal is now to create one that features not just Moses, but also Mum and Dad.
As a photographer, my love for the image goes deeper than most and I hope that this is reflected in my work. As you invest in me, I do the same in you, it takes time to get to know you or your children, which is why you’ll never see me advertise a “30 minute mini-shoot”, I want to spend time building a relationship so as to capture the real you. I want to give you something special that you will cherish forever and not just store in digital format. Images that you will print and pass on for generations, and that move you to remember the beauty of the moment passed.
Years ago, when asked what would be the first item a person would take with them if their house was on fire, the answer would always be the photo album. I think this confirms the importance of the photograph.