The blog of photographer and musician, Kim Ayres

Intimate Portraits

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What I love about portrait photography is it’s like having a dressing up box, only with facial expressions rather than costumes.

I love faces; or perhaps more accurately, I love the way people inhabit their faces.

And I find my own face an endless source of fascination too, though not in a narcissistic way. Maggie is constantly surprised I will take photos of myself with quite unflattering expressions. Perhaps it’s a more female thing to want to always look your best – younger, thinner, smoother skinned, more alluring. But I’m enjoying my face more as it ages: the lines, the skin, the shadows, all make for an infinitely more interesting photograph than some plastic skinned, “perfect” yet immensely dull 20 something model.

Or perhaps it’s just I’m so secure with Maggie I don’t have to worry about impressing anyone else. Either way it makes it considerably easier to try out different photographic and editing techniques, because I’m always available when I need someone to experiment on.

The idea, “the camera never lies” is one of photography’s biggest cons. “The camera never tells the truth” would be a far more accurate saying.

A photograph is a single instant in a continual movement through time. Our faces rarely stay still for more than a few moments, so no one position can accurately embody all the others. It would rather be like hitting a single note and somehow thinking it represented an entire opera.

So what are we trying to convey in a posed photograph? A feeling, a mood, a story, a narrative – something far more than just a brief visual representation (which is the purpose of a passport photo, not a portrait).

Like anything, practice is the key: the more I do this, the better I’ll get.

So, if anyone fancies their photo taken in the near future, I’ll do it for expenses only. This means if you live within easy walking or driving distance, it will cost you a mug of coffee and a blether. If you live in a different country and want to fly me out, put me up for a few nights, feed me food and coffee and fly me home, that will be fine too :)

I’m particularly pleased with the photo below. Don’t be concerned by the expression – it’s an example of what I mean by playing in the costume box. And it has considerably more impact if you click on it for an enlarged version.


What do you mean chocolate's not good for you?
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26 comments

savannah said...

you're right about women and pictures! i'm the first to admit that i cringe whenever the MITM points his camera my way! and yet, i have no problem when it's someone else behind the camera for a group pic. maybe it is the idea that the candids are me, not the dressed up for the camera savannah...gawd, how vain am i? (don't answer that!) ;) xoxox

ps. all of your photos are superb!

Kim Ayres said...

The candids are only one brief moment too, Savannah, and no more representative of "The Truth". The real fun is in spending a couple of hours and taking lots of different photos with different poses, expressions and lighting, and then playing in photoshop. It's all about being playful :)

Charlie said...

That is an incredible photo, Kim, and it reminds me of the Navajo Indians north of here. The older, more traditional folks who live on the "rez" do not allow their photos to be taken because they believe a part of their soul stays with the photograph forever. Looking at your eyes in the enlarged version, I'm not so sure that they are wrong.

Kim Ayres said...

If it took the bit of my soul that feels battered, bruised and deeply sad, I wouldn't mind a bit, Charlie :)

Carole said...

It would be cheap at twice the price if you make my photo look like my mind sees me. That person is a bit different from the older, graying woman that has the audacity to stand in the mirror when I am trying to get ready for work.

Your picture was tagged 'sad', but you looked more like you were puzzling out a problem and were'nt completely satisfied with the conclusion--which if it were me, I would call that look disgruntled.

Yes, I know, I should just keep my thoughts to myself.

mighty jo said...

i'll admit i don't like to look fat in pictures--or like my mom--but one of my favorite pictures of myself, which did make me cringe when i first saw it, has me looking just like mike myers.

Fat Lazy Guy said...

Dude! That is an absolutely delightful photo! Wonderfully composed, brilliant expression, great lighting. Well done :)

freakazojd said...

Ah, but you have a WONDERFULLY expressive face! MUCH more interesting that the 20-something superposers. ;) I enjoyed the concepts in this post very much, and a couple of lines in particular: "I love the way people inhabit their faces" and "it would rather be like hitting a single note and somehow thinking it represented an entire opera". Fantastic! If I could afford to fly you and the fam out to Canada I surely would - it would be great fun to meet you all, and to have someone with your skill take my crazy-faced photo. (For I, too, am a face-maker in photos. Always have been. I think it's because I'd rather look like a goof on purpose.) :)

Kim Ayres said...

Carole - if I'd been puzzling a problem my brows would have been knotted together and my tongue would have been sticking out one side of my mouth...

Mighty Jo - welcome to my ramblings and thank you for taking the time to comment.

Mike Myers the Wayne's World actor, or Mike Myers the slasher psychopath from the Halloween movies?

FLG - thank you - one day I hope to make it out to NZ. I'll bring my camera and phtograph you :)

Freakazojd - I'll live in hope you win the lottery and can fly us out then. I'm afraid I can't wait until we win the lottery because we don't do it...

Sandy said...

Surely chocolate can't be bad for you. And me just eaten 2 days from the advent calender at once - should I go and see my doctor.

Have to admit that my phone is worryingly full of pictures of me, so you're not alone.

Sandy

p.s. Well done Gramps.

Mary Witzl said...

I'm a big fan of human faces too, and sometimes find myself staring at my own in horrified fascination.

I'm definitely more vain than my husband is; it was all I could do to tell you not to get rid of my face's, ah, idiosyncrasies, when you photographed me a few months back. I tell myself I've earned them; they're mine; they're what makes me myself. But I wish I had fewer all the same...

Kim Ayres said...

Sandy - you've got to learn to hold the camera phone the right way round...

Mary - I'd like to take some more photos of you now as I feel my technique's improved since then. Presonally I love your, ah, idiosyncrasies :)

Conan Drumm said...

I'm more of a places not people snapper, esp for the blog. You've done a great job with the light in this one, adds greatly to the character that is you! Did you take it in B+W or change it after you took it?

Kim Ayres said...

Conan - I took it on the black & white setting on the camera, then played with the tones and contrasts on the computer, then dropped it into a subtle sepia.

I was talking to a landscape photographer recently who loves the outdoors and takes absolutely stunning images. I asked him about portraits and his reply was, "Can't be doing with them at all - it's all about egos!"

I think there's as many different styles of photography as there is of writing

Daphne Wayne-Bough said...

Handsome divil! Annie Leibowitz has competition. Merry Christmas to you and yours Kim.

therextras said...

However said chocolate is not good for you is lying.

What is "blether"?

Charlie, a woman in Scotland has taken that old Native American concept and called it a horcrux.

You might find this guy has an interesting face:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7JHS8adO3hM&eurl=http://theanchoressonline.com/&feature=player

Merry Christmas!

Phil said...

Photography is my other hobby. I'm pretty bad at it. It gives me a lot of pleasure - though nobody else!

Your comments about capturing one moment out of many millions rings very true.

Thought the photograph was great BTW. I could waffle on about depth of field and such - but it would only be pretending. The reason why I'm a pretty poor photographer is that I've never really properly got to grips with the technicalities.

All the best.

Phil

PI said...

It's good Kim - I like it. I'm sure Maggie often sees you like that.
Having lots of feminine weaknesses - except men are just as vain - I find having my photo taken now something I try to avoid. It's not just that experts took me when I was young and reasonable looking but family photographers have trouble getting all of the face or the head or whatever and it drives me mad. I would certainly offer myself if I lived anywhere near.
BTW - with help I have solved the blog problem.

debra said...

Photographic portraits are as much about the photographer as the photographed. It's how the eye behind the camera sees the world beyond it.

Kim Ayres said...

Daphne - and a Merry Christmas to you too, but I don't think Annie will ever have to worry about me

Therextras - blether is something of a Scottishism I think, but basically means a chat (maybe an inane chat, but a chat nonetheless). And if I could Photograph Penn of Penn & Teller, I'd leap at the chance :)

Phil - although the technicalities can be useful, they can just as easily get in the way if you get bogged down by them. Just keep thinking with each pic you take, is this a good photo or not and what could I do to improve it?

Pat - I would love to photograph you if the opportunity arises :)

Debra - very true. The whole thing is an interprative process, which is why the idea iot never lies is such a huge lie :)

PI said...

I may not pass this way again - before Christmas I hasten to add -so all my best wishes to you , Maggie, Meg and Rogan for a great Christmas and a happy healthy 2009 with special wishes for peaceful sleeps for you.xoxox

Kim Ayres said...

Thanks Pat - hope the season's good to you :)

Tricia said...

I totally agree about portraiture and love this shot!

Kim Ayres said...

Thanks Tricia:)

Jennifer said...

This is my favorite photo of you as well.

Kim Ayres said...

Jennifer - thank you :)

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