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Tuesday, July 03, 2007

 

Portraits

I've been trying to work in some informal portraiture lately. Here are two of what I think are my more successful attempts.

Portraits were what originally impelled me to take up photography. That is, I was so dissatisfied with my high school yearbook picture that I was sure I could learn to do a better job. Not realizing that the problem was the raw subject material and not the fault of any photographer, I prevailed on my friend Roger to teach me about photography. Once I got in the darkroom and became fascinated with the ability to make images, any images, I soon forgot about portraiture.

People pictures, other than those of cute, small children, have never been my strong point. I don't think I really want to go through the effort to be a really great portraitist, but I'd like to at least get better at photographing family and friends.

Composition is my strong point, so I've been looking out for opportunities to combine composition and informal portraiture.

John G at WorkI really like this photo of my friend and co-worker John. First of all, I caught an expression that I think really represents John well. He is pleasant to be around, collegial and professional with a good sense of humor - a real mentch. Second, from a compositional point of view, I like the way the swoopy curve of the desk balances the placement of John on the right side of the photo. Overall, I think it turned out to be a decent "environmental" portrait of a happy software developer.

Ben on Lake MuscocaThis next photo is, of course, our son Ben. He's an easy one to photograph, as he usually doesn't mind mugging or posing for the camera. In this case, he was just relaxing on my brother-in-law Peter's boat during our recent visit to Toronto. I thought the boat's wake on this beautiful day was a photogenic backdrop for a portrait, and the way Ben was leaning made for a more interesting photo.

OK, it's not Annie Liebovitz, but a good start.



Speaking of Annie Liebovitz, I recently took a long look at her much-heralded new book, A Photographer's Life: 1990-2005. Frankly, at $75, I don't recommend it. Many of the photos, maybe a fourth of them, are quite compelling, but the layout is not very good - many fine photos are splayed across two pages, ruined by the gutter. Further, I question if the other three-quarters of the photo are worth publishing.

Some have complained that most of the photos are just what you would find in a family album - pictures of Liebovitz' parents, cousins, and her lover Susan Sontag, over the 15-year period. I would defend her to an extent here - some of the family photos are excellent, both in the emotions they convey and in their photographic quality. But many, many more are not so good.

There are probably more photos of Sontag than any other subject in this book. A few are quite good, but most seem to be only of personal interest to Liebovitz, perhaps to Sontag's family, and maybe to Sontag fanatics. A number of these are just downright bad photos - blurred or poorly exposed.

The book also includes some landscapes, many spread across two pages. These latter ones aren't ruined by the gutter, because Liebovitz' landscapes, at least in this book, are unimpressive - perhaps they have meaning to her, but I question that they have any wide appeal.

As a photographer, Liebovitz is a bit of a puzzle to me. Here's what I wonder: she is a very talented portrait photographer, but if her photos were of ordinary people rather than celebrities, would we be all that interested and make such a fuss over her?

Comments:
Think alike
Both did portraits with wakes in the background. See mine on flickr
See youa round town maybe
Bill
http://www.flickr.com/photos/billmcallenphotos/839912997/
 
Hi Steve, wow I came across your posts about your Saudi work, amazing. Next trime you post a series of Photos or a photo essay make sure you submit it to JPix. The Jewish Photo Carnival.

Thanks for the interesting post on your 'Cousin Izzy'!

regards Aaron
Mr Bagel
 
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I wonder how they do it ? Anyone know about this , please tell me :D
(sr for my bad english ^_^)

email: ya76oo@ya76oo.com
thanks.
 
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