“Staring Back” is the current working title for the portrait exhibition this May.
Originally I thought I could just take a cross section of my favourite images, but then I started thinking, “so what?” There are plenty of portrait photographers out there already, and while you might want them to do your wedding, you wouldn’t go and see an exhibition of their work.
An exhibition needs to have more impact.
So after much mulling, debating and experiencing a plethora of panic attacks, I’ve decided my exhibition will display photos where each image has someone staring back at the viewer.
We look at faces all the time. Every time we chat to someone face to face, we are looking at them; indeed it is considered quite rude not to.
However, we don’t examine faces when we are talking to people. In fact if we become aware someone is examining our face, we feel distinctly uncomfortable. A line has been crossed; an unspoken taboo, broken.
When we look at portraits, though, we are actively encouraged to examine the faces. With no fear of upsetting anyone, we are allowed to look at all the lines, shadows and textures.
But if we are trying to examine a portrait photograph, and the person in it is staring back at us, then it reactivates our sense of uncertainty. On the one hand we know it’s just a photo, but at the same time our brains are hardwired to feel uncomfortable under the rigid gaze of another person.
The upshot of this will be, rather than being just an exhibition of interesting faces or shots, it will evoke an emotional response, a sense of feeling a bit off-balance.
And I fully expect some people to dislike it. My hope is that others will find it infinitely more rewarding.
I don’t have enough photos of this kind yet, so I’m busy phoning friends and colleagues and trying to convince them they would love to have me thrusting my camera into their faces.
Time is short...