IS YOUR PORTRAIT MORE REAL THAN YOU ARE?
A portrait is not a description. It is an understanding of who we are. A portrait is a trace of the essence of a person, a discovery of his most elementary features. A portrait can lead us in our way in our search for ourselves.
"The reason some portraits don't look true to life is that some people make no effort to resemble their pictures"
Like all great aphorisms Salvador Dali's quote puts the light on the essential by exaggerating it, making it larger than life. A portrait is not a description of who we think we are. It is taken notice of elements of our existence by a certain look, the way we hold our head and how eyes and mouth express something that cannot be said with words but with a picture.
It goes beyond words and gives a personal impression to everyone and a depth sounding to the portrayed himself.
"When having my portrait taken I don't want justice. I want mercy"
I have put this quote in here because it represents the dark side of a portrait. We might find things that we don't like. But mercy is the wrong expectation. Is is better to know something that plaster over it with lies like the typical smile that is always insincere.
A portrait can be and encrypted message like from the oracle of Delphi. It is not about pleasing the portrayed. It is to speak the truth.
"My job as a portrait photographer is to seduce, amuse and entertain"
The relationship of the artist to the portrayed is the essential process of a portrait session.
There are as many modes of engagement with the subject as there are photographic artists. Helmut Newton was the playful seducer, others unearth by shock and awe, inspiration or by thoughtful conversation.
The German classicist writer Heinrich von Kleist said that the greatest obstacles in the representation of human beings in artistic expression is consciousness. Have you ever seen one of those old portrait machines? You enter a box, pull a curtain, sit down and put coins into the hungry slot.
Then you get a countdown, doing the opposite of what a photographic artist does: heightening your awareness of the moment that leads to maximum face contortions. 3, 2, 1, merciless and flash. The result: self-conscious on an often comical scale.
A good portrait is a voyage between thought and consciousness.
You can see some of my portraits here: