Far too much portrait photography is little more than product photography featuring people instead of objects. Just like photographing a pewter plate, a necklace or a dressing gown, the idea is to create an image of the best achievable version of the subject. And any flaws still there after lighting the product as perfectly as possible, can be conveniently removed afterwards in the digital editing process.
This is why there are so many complete make-over and photo sessions around (do your hair, make-up and soft lighting), and why every model on every magazine cover now looks like a computer-generated, plastic doll.
What all these things lack is a real, human, emotional connection with the viewer. I find them flat, boring and, ultimately, sad.
However, getting someone to relax with you, trust you and buy into your vision as a photographer looking for something deeper, is no easy thing. Fears, insecurities and reservations all have to be overcome in a very short space of time. Months of psychotherapy are not available: at best I have a couple of hours.
Last weekend I had less than one hour to photograph Dr Bashabi Fraser before The Bakehouse event, at which she was the guest author.
For mutual benefit, I’ve begun an arrangement with The Bakehouse, where I will be taking portraits of their guest poets/authors/performers before the events, and over time this will build up a collection of images for a “Hall of Fame” for the venue, while it gives me the opportunity to photograph people who invariably have an interesting background and/or take on life.
Bashabi was the first of these and, given the time constraints and less control over the lighting arrangement than I would have in my own studio, it’s fair to say I was feeling the pressure – hence the nervousness expressed in the last post.
Fortunately all my instincts and experience kicked in at the right time, and although I over ran a little, everyone felt it had gone well.
Here, then, is the photo some of you requested me to post. Rather than a bland, plastic, soulless portrait, I hope this hints at the intelligent, fascinating person she is.
(Click on the image for a larger version)