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  1. #21
    TheFlyingCamera's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bill Burk View Post
    One useful measure of a portrait (not a requirement but something you can judge) is whether you can show it to someone and they can recognize the person.

    I have a print of a friend, which I thought was a great portrait. But over dinner, talking with a friend who is sending her daughter on an upcoming camping trip... My wife mentioned his name. Our friend didn't immediately remember who we were talking about, so I went to get the print.

    Showed it to her, and since a baseball cap shaded his face, she couldn't recognize him - even though the portrait reflects his essence TO ME, it failed to help show who we were talking about.

    Got out the 4x5 film from the freezer and am going to load up some Grafmatics... Got another shot at portraiture on the camping trip.
    I don't know that you can hold yourself accountable on those terms - she may never have experienced the side of the man you were talking about that you see reflected in that portrait, so she doesn't recognize him.

  2. #22
    Bill Burk's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by TheFlyingCamera View Post
    I don't know that you can hold yourself accountable on those terms - she may never have experienced the side of the man you were talking about that you see reflected in that portrait, so she doesn't recognize him.
    True. I still love the print. But a feeling of "unfinished business" drives me. I had planned to leave the cameras behind on this (third-annual) camping trip... But now I have a chance to correct my photograph's (literal) shortfall.

  3. #23
    cliveh's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bill Burk View Post
    One useful measure of a portrait (not a requirement but something you can judge) is whether you can show it to someone and they can recognize the person.
    Err yes Bill, that could be a good starting point.

    “The contemplation of things as they are, without error or confusion, without substitution or imposture, is in itself a nobler thing than a whole harvest of invention”

    Francis Bacon

  4. #24
    TheFlyingCamera's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by cliveh View Post
    Err yes Bill, that could be a good starting point.
    I think that's the goal of an ID photo - making sure the person is recognizable. ID photos are a subspecies of portrait, but I don't think a Portrait (with a capital P) has the same goals as an ID photo. A capital-P Portrait is as much about the photographer/portraitist as it is about the subject - it's an expression of the creator's perception of the subject, or at least some aspect of the subjects' persona that resonates with the creator. It doesn't have to be accurate to be "true".

  5. #25
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    Quote Originally Posted by TheFlyingCamera View Post
    I think that's the goal of an ID photo - making sure the person is recognizable. ID photos are a subspecies of portrait, but I don't think a Portrait (with a capital P) has the same goals as an ID photo. A capital-P Portrait is as much about the photographer/portraitist as it is about the subject - it's an expression of the creator's perception of the subject, or at least some aspect of the subjects' persona that resonates with the creator. It doesn't have to be accurate to be "true".
    I agree and think its fascinating to see portraits of a person done by a number of great photographers, each showing THEIR perception.

    As I've stated before on the issue of portraiture, is the difference in who is paying for the portrait. If the subject pays its a far different animal than if a magazine/publication pays or no one pays.

    The whole dynamic of flattery/ego enters the equation when the subject is the one with the money or power behind the creation of it.

    As with almost all aspects of human interaction when you "follow the money", you get a far better picture (pardon the pun) of intent and influence behind everything, and a portrait is no different.
    Last edited by blansky; 09-27-2013 at 02:24 PM. Click to view previous post history.
    I couldn't think of anything witty to say so I left this blank.

  6. #26
    TheFlyingCamera's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by blansky View Post
    I agree and think its fascinating to see portraits of a person done by a number of great photographers, each showing THEIR perception.

    As I've stated before on the issue of portraiture, is the difference in who is paying for the portrait. If the subject pays its a far different animal than if a magazine/publication pays or no one pays.

    The whole dynamic of flattery/ego enters the equation when the subject is the one with the money or power behind the creation of it.

    As with almost all aspects of human interaction when you "follow the money", you get a far better picture (pardon the pun) of intent and influence behind everything, and a portrait is no different.
    The interesting thing is that, at least historically, you could occasionally get away with producing an unflattering portrait on commission - note the JP Morgan "Knife" portrait, which was commissioned by JP Morgan himself of Edward Steichen. There are very few recent examples because "celebrities" nowadays are so controlling of their image that they will often demand to review images during the shoot and will actually delete ones they don't like from the photographers' camera. I'm still amazed that Jill Greenberg was able to take even the base photos she manipulated to make John McCain look like a monster with fangs and blood coming out of his mouth. Even the legit photos she took that ran in Atlantic Monthly, which typify her style of weird plasticized front-lighting with a beauty dish are pretty hideous.

  7. #27
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    Going back to the statement by Chris Lange – “I think a good portrait does not capture a singular instance of the subject’s existence, rather it should show the fervour that resides within. Probably the best example I could site for this would be a self-portrait in oils by Vincent Van Gogh. I don’t know if this sort of power for a similar image in a photographic medium could ever be replicated, but viewing the oil painting for me was a fantastic and moving experience.

    “The contemplation of things as they are, without error or confusion, without substitution or imposture, is in itself a nobler thing than a whole harvest of invention”

    Francis Bacon

  8. #28
    Chris Lange's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by cliveh View Post
    Going back to the statement by Chris Lange – “I think a good portrait does not capture a singular instance of the subject’s existence, rather it should show the fervour that resides within. Probably the best example I could site for this would be a self-portrait in oils by Vincent Van Gogh. I don’t know if this sort of power for a similar image in a photographic medium could ever be replicated, but viewing the oil painting for me was a fantastic and moving experience.
    Precisely the sort of image I was referring to.

    It's a rare, and visceral pleasure when this sort of quality appears in my own work...

    See my work at my website CHRISTOPHER LANGE PHOTOGRAPHY

    or my snaps at my blog MINIMUM DENSITY
    --
    If you don't have it, then you don't have it.

  9. #29

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    Quote Originally Posted by TheFlyingCamera View Post
    The interesting thing is that, at least historically, you could occasionally get away with producing an unflattering portrait on commission.
    Take for example using a 450 mm lens on a 20x24 camera and making President Obama look like he took a selfie.
    http://phototechmag.com/anatomy-of-a-photo-shoot/
    "There are a great many things I am in doubt about at the moment, and I should consider myself favoured if you would kindly enlighten me. Signed, Doubtful, off to Canada." (BJP 1914).

    Regards
    Bill

  10. #30
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    Quote Originally Posted by cowanw View Post
    Take for example using a 450 mm lens on a 20x24 camera and making President Obama look like he took a selfie.
    http://phototechmag.com/anatomy-of-a-photo-shoot/
    Or Platon's wide-angle, shot-from-below picture of Clinton with his hands on his knees (believe it was a Time cover). That would seem to break almost every "rule" I've ever read about portrait photography. Completely demonstrates the distortion of a wide-angle lens used close up. But hey, you gotta break a few rules now and again...

    "Once the amateur's naive approach and humble willingness to learn fades away, the creative spirit of good photography dies with it. Every professional should remain always in his heart an amateur." - Alfred Eisenstadt

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