Wednesday, December 19, 2012

The Serendipitous Portrait

Of late it's been my goal to make conceptual portraits.  That is when given assignment or working on a personal I attempt to create a provocative portrait that has some sort of narrative.  I.e. before I show up at the location of the session I've prepared at least two concepts that will illustrate a story about my subject.  This requires much pre-production brainstorming, jotting down of ideas, followed by weeding out of the ridiculous or the cost prohibitive, further brainstorming, and finally settling upon something I know how to do and preferably something I've never done before.  Equally I demonstratively don't want to make a photograph that's, and it's also not my style, clich√© or contrived.  This type of portrait is common for many editorial portrait photographers.  Some of the best at this are Annie Liebowitz, Mark Seliger, Martin Schoeller, Chris Buck, Peter Yang to name just a few.   Their work, even though much has gone into it, never seems forced.  I've read and heard many interviews with these photographers and others discussing some of their most successful portraits.  And what is most common is that even though they came prepared to their shoots with tons of lights, ideas, props, and sometimes the whole dog and pony show, their most outstanding images came about often by chance, happenstance, a happy accident, or even a mistake.
Then there are the portraits that fall into your lap.  Last week I was returning home from picking up a couple scones for breakfast and I came upon this image.  I sped home grabbed my faithful Hasselblad with its standard 80mm lens (the tools for 90% of my images).  Fortunately, she hadn't moved from where I had previously seen her.   I have met and even photographed this Crossing Guard before, yet in my wildest dreams I could have never conceived this photograph.  I just happen to have been lucky that morning to have come upon it.

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