Monday, April 13


Annie Leibovitz, that is. {Photo above, self-portrait. Circa 1970}
For Master Series #4 of American Photo magazine she was asked, "How do you set people at ease [while taking their portraits]?"

I was shocked by her response but instantly recognized in her portraits, affirmation of her statement...

I never set anyone at ease. I always thought it was their problem. Setting people at ease is not part of what I do. The question assumes that one is looking for a "nice" picture, but a good portrait photographer is looking for something else. It might be a nice picture and it might not. I know, however, that I do set people at east because I'm very direct. I'm there simply to take the picture, that's it.

During one of my photojournalism classes at UT we discussed the diametrically opposed schools of thought amongst photographers: one mindset {annie's} is to stage/prep the photograph then enter the subject. How the subject reacts to the camera and situation is them and thus an accurate portrait of the person. The other mindset {richard avedon, for example} is to induce the subject to show sort of desired emotion, ie: tell a shocking story, engage in conversation to make them laugh.

I, personally, have never seen a more real portrait than that of Annie Leibovitz. But it begs the question: are people, in general, prepared for what the camera captures, do they really want to see themselves how they are whatever that might be? Or do they want an induced reality, a society-driven perfection?

As a photographer, it is my goal to merge the two, find a middle ground.

But ahhhh, my lovelies, it is my ultimate prayer that every person placed behind my lens has confidence and security enough to realize every part of them is beautiful. Thus every photograph (with a good eye and steady hand) is beautiful.

With Annie or Avedon?

1 comment:

Milton said...

As a Language Arts teacher and writer, these are the kind of discussions I love to have about art.
As in writing, I believe it depends on audience and purpose. As a photographer, the photographer must ask why am I taking this photo, who is my intended audience, what am I trying to capture here? Now, just like in writing, all these answers could change after the photograph has been taken. Art, in general, takes on another life away from the artist. Whatever the intention was from the artist, can be radically different from the perception of the viewer and even the artist as time passes.
So, is it the photographer's job to make the subject at ease-- it depends on those questions that the photographer must ask him or herself.