I always enjoy providing portfolio reviews for members of photography clubs. My approach is different than most reviewers. As one recent photographer told me, “Other reviewers focus on the photograph, but you focus on the artist.” Amidst my comments about the images, individually and collectively, I also try to share and gain wisdom from the photographer. There are technical aspects, but creating images is a human endeavor above all else. Invariably, for whatever wisdom I share, I receive more. A recent review opportunity was no exception.
Jerry had a selection of about a dozen images of a series of portraits he captured on the streets in Italy. He shared how he asked in limited Italian with a Texas drawl if he could take each person’s photo. His first two requests were declined in grouchy ways, but then he got a positive response from a woman who sold soaps and lotions as a street vendor and the portrait project was underway. His motivation and his approach provide great insights into life and people. The portraits were great; the wisdom was priceless.
Each image showed great rapport between Jerry and his subjects, evidenced by their expressions and the looks in their eyes. It is easy to tell about the relationship between a photographer and the subject by looking at the subject’s eyes. He clearly connected to each person with glimpses of their personalities on display.
When I asked what attracted him to the people who chose to photograph, Jerry replied, “I think people are interesting.” We could all do well to see people as interesting instead of as adversaries, looking for things we can appreciate in others instead of things that differentiate us. Jerry’s images show the power of such a mindset.
A talented portrait photographer must build trust and rapport to create an atmosphere where the subject can relax and reveal their true selves. Each session is like a mini-relationship. When I asked Jerry how many images he created of each person of which he chose to show, he said, “One.” One click of the shutter.
Instead of following all the “rules” and “guides” of how to create portraits, Jerry took the risk to reach out to people because he believed them to be interesting, asked permission to take a photo and then pushed the shutter button once. He did not presume to consume their time for his intentions. He was unselfish in his approach and the results revealed interesting people who were rendered in images that revealed human spirit, personality and connection. We could do well to follow Jerry’s example as we see and interact with others.