Jul 112015
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He probably won’t thank me for posting this one. But I know he’s up for it. And he’s such a good actor.

My reason for posting is the enlightenment I got from making this portrait of my husband. I’m very uncomfortable with having my photo taken, VERY uncomfortable. I think there is only one photo of myself in existence that I’m ok with, and that was made 31 years ago.

I’ve been admiring Vicki, and her portraits of people she has met through her travels. After reading the above, I guess you can imagine just how much admiration I have for her, and the sense of the person she’s been able to bring out with that.

This sense of how uncomfortable it is to sit in front of the camera translates to how I feel about making portraits of other people. So I feel much happier if I can do the stealth thing, and try to capture moments where they are unaware of the camera’s presence. That’s how I would prefer to be photographed. Now I’m trying to bring more honesty and integrity to my work it’s time to face myself. And I’m doing that through the mirror of my husband first up. To try and develop the empathy that sits in the space between sitter and photographer, and which allows the sitter space to be themselves, and get myself out of the frame. This is going to be a hard one.

I didn’t know why I wanted to make the first portrait like a mugshot, but once I’d developed it (and it had to be black & white, and harsh, and flashy), I realised that it was me I was photographing, and this is how I feel when someone asks to take my picture.

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  5 Responses to “Marcus, Bishopdale Christchurch, July 2015”

  1. Every image is a self portrait……blah blah blah……..but its true. It was no surprise to me when I saw this knowing it was the first of a set. You have hit the nail on the head.

  2. That is portraiture, it is ourselves we see when we press the shutter. The sitter doesn’t say “press now”, they don’t know the look you want????. Well done for giving it a good. I love portraiture.

  3. Jenny, I identify with what you say. Even stealth worries me let alone direct eye to eye contact – other than younger family. I too admire what Vicki is doing and how far she has travelled (photographically).

  4. You’ve shaken loose a few interesting thoughts in my mind, Jenny, and John. My Dad was always taking photos of my sister and I when we were kids and I’ve always been happy on that end of the lens, probably because Dad always made it a happy and fun experience. But, as I’ve said when I started this ‘challenge’, I really don’t like taking stealth shots. I thought that was because I don’t want to be ‘caught’ at it and anger or upset someone, and because I’m never happy with the results of my stealth images. Now I’m wondering if it’s also because I’m not so keen on ‘stealth’ shots of me! By engaging with the people I want to ‘shoot’, I’m giving them the opportunity to put their best face forward, which is what I do when a lens is knowingly pointed my way – I can flash my toothy grin, pull back my shoulders, pull in my tummy and stand up straight – all designed to portray me at my best!! I’m so terribly vain!! 🙂
    BTW – I’m still finding that first approach to a stranger VERY difficult, and rare, but I’m sure that toothy grin helps.
    It sounds like Marcus is going to be a good sport and let you practice on him, Jenny. Good friends or other family members might be similarly willing – I’ve always promised beforehand that I’ll delete photos they don’t like. And, of course, there’s always the most available person of all – you!

    Half an hour later ….. I’ve continued mulling this over because I thought I was missing something, and have just added the bit about Dad always making photo opportunities a fun experience. So, while I’m going to leave in the bit about vanity because I accept it also plays a part, I believe my fond memories are largely determining the way I want to engage with the strangers on the other end of my lens.

  5. Hi Jen
    Jen, I have agonised over my response to this image. You have moved me to respond with feelings which come from my heart.

    If your intention was to make the viewer feel uncomfortable then in my case you have succeeded. The style you have used, namely a very sombre mug shot in monochrome, says just that. I agree that none of us feels comfortable with a long lens or even a short one pointed at our face. I mentioned in my comment on one of Vicki’s posts, (Kiwi Bro) that the challenge to create a happy portrait which portrays the inner person in a positive light is all about communication and putting your subject at ease. Which I think that Vicki seems to be achieving a she has noted above. You obviously let your husband know the style you wanted and he agreed to pose appropriately. You are fortunate that he consented to you posting this image. I think that it is helped by your story which accompanies it.

    As you probably already know, one needs to find out what makes a person tick and make the conversation relate to that. Once your subject has relaxed, those good portraits come frequently. I too hate having a portrait made of me, especially an unflattering one, so I always try to get one that my sitter is happy with. My husband also hated having his photo made so I usually cajoled him by saying I needed to practice my exposures (and that was often when I had a job or a project to do and wanted to remind myself of the settings required.) I frequently managed to get a twinkle in his eye and now that he is no longer here, I am pleased that I did and have these images to treasure. I note that Ferg says that this image is the beginning of a series / set. I do hope the portraits become happier as your series progresses. I commend you for moving out of your comfort zone.

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