The blog of photographer and musician, Kim Ayres

Life behind the eyes

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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)
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20 comments

TalesNTypos said...

I did wonder what the excitement was about. :)

Lovely photograph, and well done you on getting the gig.

hope said...

She looks strong and intelligent... with a mischievous twinkle in her eye. Perfect!

Ron said...

My friend Larry and I were talking about this very subject this morning over breakfast. The secret to taking truly good pictures of someone is to capture their personality. I always try to relax my subject and catch them at a spontaneous moment. That is the same way I like to have pictures taken of myself but with little success because the person I ask to take the picture has no clue and just "takes a picture" after asking me to say "cheese!"

Eryl said...

See, I knew your instincts would kick in and all would be well. She looks rather mischievous.

mapstew said...

I just HATE having my photograph taken.

But, I look forward to the day when I stand in front of you and your magic camera, for I know you will show the real me.

Have a lovely weekend my pal, and I hope to see you in person someday soon. :¬)

Jayne said...

Oh, this photo makes me smile. A real flesh and blood woman. And there is a mischievous air about her. She looks like someone I'd like to have lunch with. Engaging, alert, bright, approachable and fun. Beautiful.

Ponita in Real Life said...

What a fabulous photo! Mischievous, yes... intelligent, absolutely... and beautiful too! Well done, Kim. This is how portraits are supposed to be done!

Whitney Lee said...

This is wonderful. I agree with you completely. We recently had photos taken of the kids and what I loved is that the photographer so captured the essence of my kids-their personalities shone through. I think it takes much more talent to capture that; it goes beyond being able to frame a great photo. Congrats to you on having that talent.

Jayne Martin said...

Wow! That is one powerful looking lady. You just know she has lived a fascinating life. You're so right about a photo like this with real depth versus those silly photo-shopped things. Beautiful work, my friend.

Hindsfeet said...

Really enjoy your vision, Kim.....the depth and richness you bring to your work is mirrored back in the finished result, and once again you bring to mind the Talmudic quote, "We do not see things as they are; we see them as *we* are."

always thankful to have stumbled on to you, your ideas, and your work,
Liz

emma said...

I see a lot of warmth.

I think most of us would find it incredibly hard to relax for a portrait which wasn't just for ourselves.
I can only assume your must be pretty good at helping people feel relaxed and comfortable!

A Daft Scots Lass said...

Definitely a twinkle in that eye.

Pat said...

Well whatever you said or did it worked because she looks totally relaxed and 'happy in her skin'.
What a great face!
What did she herself think of the results?

allencapoferri said...

Her intelligence is very much apparent in your portrait of her.
That's funny, I just noticed someone else commented "mischievous twinkle" as well. I guess that's apparent too!

jackonius said...

Is she an Indian, that too a Bengali like me??

Theanne... said...

A like your photo of her...I like the way she is looking back at you!

Kim Ayres said...

Adila - thank you :)

Hope - she does :)

Ron - one day we'll get your portrait sorted out :)

Eryl - it's always easier to know things will work out well, from the outside :)

Mapstew - you'd enjoy having your photo taken by me, because I'd bring out your inner cool, that's just waiting to be captured in camera :)

Jayne - I think she would be great to have lunch with. It was a shame I didn't have more time to spend with her

Ponita - thank you :)

Whitney Lee - glad you found a good photographer. Ones who can get the best out of kids are really rare

Jayne - thank you :)

Liz - that's a really good quote - thank you :)

Emma - it's mainly about sharing my enthusiasm and passion for photography, which can be infectious and I think helps people to relax

Gillian - :)

Pat - I think she likes them :)

Allen - "mischievous" seems to be the most common word. I wonder what she'd think of that...

Jackonius - look like it - did you read her biography? :)

Theanne - I always prefer portraits where the person is looking into the camera - it's much more personal

Lynne said...

I love it! Those are the kind of photos that are worth taking and keeping. She *freely* gave you part a part of her soul to capture, and that's no small feat. Those are the ones years from now she will look back on with fondness.

Falak said...

She has a very knowing smile. It's nice to see photos that urge you to think about the emotions captured rather than just the physical form. Your pictures are always amazing Kim! But I guess a little nervousness helps now and then doesn't it?

Kim Ayres said...

Lynne - thank you :)

Falak - not really - once I was there and taking the photos the nervousness disappeared. I fall into a way of being that is very comfortable just talking and interacting with people. The nerves are only there before hand

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