On portrait photography
I just finished up a session with a mom and her two daughters, ages eleven and eight. The mother, from Romania, still very young and stunningly beautiful. Her daughters are artistic and obviously intelligent. It's a wonderful little family, as close as a family can be.
The older daughter, Alexandra, is going into seventh grade, and is experiencing the normal battle with self-esteem. All very typical, except that beautiful Alexandra has a large scar on her face, running between her nose and her lip, and it makes it that much more difficult for her. I got the impression that she is used to people asking her about her scar, and was waiting for me to comment on it.
Really, I didn't notice the scar right away, because her eyes and her demeanor are so stunning. But it is there, and it's part of her. She was a bit aloof, ducking her chin when we first started the session, trying to hide a bit behind her younger sister.
So, I put the camera down and we just talked for a few minutes, about school, hobbies, whatever. Nothing. Her sister got bored, and so I gave her a five minute break. After a few minutes, I told Alexandra (truthfully) that she had such a beautifully expressive face that I'd really like to photograph her alone for a few minutes if she didn't mind. She was taken completely off guard, and then agreed. So we did.
Taking those few minutes made all the difference. Her confidence came out. She lifted her chin and gazed directly into the camera, and challenged it. She had an almost defiant beauty. We talked all the while, and she told me how most photographers have been in such a hurry to get through, and it made her feel ugly and like she wasn't special. I saw her mom tear up a little out of the corner of my eye, and she quickly slipped into the house as we finished up. In talking with her mother afterward, I found myself getting a bit emotional as she told me how much it meant to her to see her daughter "come out" with me.
It's not about having a productive session, or a smooth one. It's not a beautiful location, or even the perfect lighting/pose/background.
In fact, it's not about photography at all.
It's about taking the time to help people feel their own beauty and uniqueness. It's about taking the time to find that connection and exchanging little pieces of yourselves. It's about..... taking the time.
And I'll say it again -- it's not about what they look like, but who they are.
I have no images to post yet, and they almost don't matter.
Anyway, enough from me. Just consider it affirmation for those of us who sometimes wonder if we take too long, shoot too much, or get too personal. We don't. Keep it up.
I started out to "clip" this for the sake of brevity. This is as far as I could go.
Originally Posted by Cheryl Jacobs
BRAVA!!! A beautiful insight into just what makes you such a rare and wonderful photographer.
And ... THANK you!!
Ed Sukach, FFP.
Sounds like a great shoot.
I agree completely. That's what differentiates us from the flog em in flog em out type places. Virtually every sitting I do, and I'm sure it's the same with you, people always say that it was a lot of fun and they felt very relaxed. I don't even introduce the camera into the mix for maybe ten or fifteen minutes.
After a sitting I'm stoned for about an hour. I truly get high on the adrenelin and satisfaction of the time I spend with people in a very intimate manner. There ain't nothin like it. ( well maybe hockey, but here nobody gets hurt)
I don't do scenics for that very reason. It's the people I get high from.
I couldn't think of anything witty to say so I left this blank.
Good for you Cheryl. Your post reminds me a lot of my father's behavior with his patients. He was a brilliant diagnostician (chief of cardiology for DeBakey when he was in New York) yet he spent countless hours listening to his patients, many a times about things totally unrelated to their disease.
It is this attitude as well as your talent that make you success in portrait photography.
You can never pay enough attention to your subjects, and when you do, you are rewarded as is the case with this session. Cant wait to see the pictures, I am sure they will have your usual high standard.
Thanks for sharing that wonderful story Cheryl. Your compassion, love and respect for other people just shines through your photographic work
There are 10 types of people in this world - those who understand binary and those who don't.
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Not only does your post speak to your great skills, not only as a photographer but as a human, it also demonstrates why you are destined for success.
It also helps me to articulate why I am finding myself strongly drawn to portraiture and away from landscapes, and pretty much any other photographic idiom. The anecdotes that you and Michael McBlane share strum a major chord in me, and inform me about how much "music" I have within that needs to be heard - if only by me. All of us need to make sure that we do not die with our music still in us (see Tolstoy's "Death of Ivan Iilych" for a literary exploration of the theme)
You and Alexandra got to share something really special, and the ripples have touched APUG with a valuable lesson. Once again, thanks for sharing!
Latent Images Plastic Toy Cameras
"Don't ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive and go do that, because what the world needs is people who have come alive" - Howard Thurman
I know you are really "there" when you take pictures of a person!
That makes your portraits so damn good!
Good light and nice shadows to you!
Your posting makes it clear that you are a photographer - not someone that knows how to handle a camera.
Curitiba - nice place to live, if you don't care about the weather...
Thank you for the nice comments. This 'job' really is such a privilege.
Here is Alexandra, although I have to apologize for the scan quality. this was scanned from a very bright and contrasty proof.
Alexandra is on the far right. She is amazing.
Apologies again for the terribly blown highlights. As the proof was printed that way, I can't do anything to fix the scan.