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  1. #11
    Ed Sukach's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by bibowj View Post
    That leads me to my question, what if anything do you all do to capture someones soul on film, assuming you dont know the subject well? Do you try to have coffee with them first? Talk on the phone? make out? What?
    I don't have a set, canned method.

    This may be of interest:

    "The never-ending fascination for the people I photograph lies in what I call their internal strength. It is part of the hard-to-define secret hidden within everyone, and the attempt to capture this on film has been my life's work."

    - Yousuf Karsh


    I try for that "capture" by downgrading my self-importance with the idea of acting as a conduit between the image and emotional aura - and the final print.

    That really applies to all of my work.

    Simple to write. Somewhat more difficult to do...
    Carpe erratum!!

    Ed Sukach, FFP.

  2. #12
    SchwinnParamount's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by bibowj View Post
    So today, while getting a haircut, I began thinking about portraiture and what common threads there are in a truly fine portrait. In every kind process there is a end customer that has to find value in what your providing, and if you focus on meeting those needs, youll be successful. So in a portrait, its the person in front of the camera that matters. Like in fashion, its the clothes... but in this case its the person.

    I think there are two common qualitys that make a sucesfull portrait from the viewpoint of the your subject:
    1- You make them look great.
    2- Somehow, you capture some part of their personality in a shot. You show them in their true, yet flattering way.

    I think #1 is about skill and experience, and is doable, but #2 is harder. If you dont know the person , or just met them, how do you capture their true essence in film?

    What got me thinking about this was recently I was looking at my portfolio, and theres one common series of photographs that EVERY one comments on. They were taken on 35mm film, nothing fancy. The model is striking of course, but not any more striking than most models working today. The difference was that I was in love with this woman, and what I captured was that moment. I somehow transferred those feelings from my body, through the lens onto film.

    That leads me to my question, what if anything do you all do to capture someones soul on film, assuming you dont know the subject well? Do you try to have coffee with them first? Talk on the phone? make out? What?
    I'm not sure what you mean by 'soul'. Perhaps you mean 'personality' or 'nature'. For example, a person can be outgoing and good-natured. The image you make of the person will capture that as long as there is any sort of chemistry between you and the subject. You simply need to make an image of the subject smiling. You do that and anyone who knows the subject will say "That's Johnny. He's such an outgoing and good-natured person".

    Let me be a little less obtuse.

    If I see a photograph of a perfect stranger who is smiling warmly for the camera, I'll think "that person is smiling"

    If someone who knows the subject sees the same photograph, they will see the smile and fill in the missing data. They will know the subject is a generally outgoing and good-natured person. Then they will say... "Ah, that Johnny. He's such an outgoing and good-natured person"

    The photo cannot communicate anything except the physical appearance of a subject. The viewer must fill in all of the rest.

    Short answer? No. You cannot capture the 'soul' of a subject.

    One more time: If you have a good rapport with your subject, they will relax and react 'naturally' to the camera. When that happens, you capture their normal expression... whether happy or sad. A viewer who knows the subject will see the same face they see when they interact with the subject under normal circumstances.

    The viewer reacts positively to your picture because they see the subject just as they see the subject in actual life.

    Bottom line: Get your subject to relax and be themselves for you. No mystery.
    Last edited by SchwinnParamount; 08-17-2009 at 10:16 PM. Click to view previous post history.

  3. #13
    Cheryl Jacobs's Avatar
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    I think it's important to remember that a portrait records, primarily, the subject's response to the photographer. Therefore, the photographer (and his/her expressions, words, body language, tone of voice, pace, appearance, etc) is as much a part of the photograph as the subject.

    There are plenty of examples of portraits which are brutality honest and not beautiful, and because of that are very successful. You always must keep in mind your end goal. If you are shooting commissioned portraits for a family, then yes, you will probably need to be sure the images are flattering and present the subjects in their best light. However, if you are shooting portraits to sell in a gallery (for example) you have more flexibility to shoot in whatever way you feel shows the character or the moment most effectively. That was the case in my "regulars" series; they aren't designed to be flattering, but rather are basically raw character sketches.

    When you realize and accept that the photographer is ALWAYS part of the portrait, it becomes easier to flex, tug, and coax the life into the image.

    - CJ

  4. #14

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    Quote Originally Posted by Cheryl Jacobs View Post
    When you realize and accept that the photographer is ALWAYS part of the portrait, it becomes easier to flex, tug, and coax the life into the image.

    - CJ
    I am no expert on portraiture, but I have always felt (to take your point further), that EVERY portrait is a projection of the photographers impression of the subject. Afterall we choose the light, the moment and very often the context. At that level, the question becomes, is this a true representation of the person? I find it hard to believe that it is true most of the time. I also do not believe that a single image in any way can summarise anyones personality, though it can be powerful in emphasising a specific trait (e.g. Karschs portrait of Churchill looking resolute, but in fact angry).

    I guess what I am trying to say is that I do not agree with the OP's 2nd item, which I believe is a myth created by photographers to explain a feel or sense in an image, which stands out beyond the image itself. That feel is not necessarily the truth the majority of the time, but an imposition.

    A friend of mine once told me he fealt my street photographs were self-portraits, with their emphasis on solitary existence, detachment and melancholy (rather than sadness). I think he touched upon something, because I see that in the portraits I take also...even of my children...and I have happy kids.

    So I think I go even further than you Cheryl to suggest that more often than not, it is 80% the photographer and 20% the subject...but then I may be just a selfish photographer
    Kal Khogali

    www.kal-khogali.com


    Visit my Photo Scrap Book

    www.shutteringeye.wordpress.com


    "Wake up, dream, and photograph what you have seen.
    Don't wake up, photograph, and dream of what could have been."

  5. #15
    EASmithV's Avatar
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    I usually do or say something random, or some racist joke, to break the tension and try to create a natural smile right before I snap the shutter, but only if I think a happy expression suits the person.
    www.EASmithV.com

    "The camera is an instrument that teaches people how to see without a camera."— Dorothea Lange
    http://www.flickr.com/easmithv/
    RIP Kodachrome

  6. #16
    benjiboy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by EASmithV View Post
    I usually do or say something random, or some racist joke, to break the tension and try to create a natural smile right before I snap the shutter, but only if I think a happy expression suits the person.
    The President and the First Lady have just crossed you photographers list
    Ben

  7. #17
    benjiboy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by benjiboy View Post
    The President and the First Lady have just crossed you off the White House photographers list
    Do You do jokes about leaking oil too ?
    Ben

  8. #18

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    Quote Originally Posted by benjiboy View Post
    Do You do jokes about leaking oil too ?
    It's not very good down in the Gulf of Mexico, but I'm sure there is jokes about it now!

    Jeff

  9. #19

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    Cheryl hit the nail on the head. The difference between flattery and truth is always in the eye of the subject and our job is discern the difference and remember why we are making the portrait.
    Denise Libby

  10. #20
    Dave Pritchard's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by bibowj View Post
    So today, while getting a haircut, I began thinking
    ...
    The trouble with haircuts is that they encourage philosophy. Watching TV is the cure for that. I think it is impossible to think while watching TV, unless you are thinking how boring it is.

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