The Art of Portrait Photography Off Book PBS Digital Studios

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” re drawn to portraits nbecause they are human beings and we re human beings. I i can relate to it somehow we re people so we nlike looking at people re very social and i think that a nface can say so much we ve been portraying ourselves nto imitate represent flatter to situate with some nkind of social status at its core. It s nour desire to record to document our existence music playing we ve been depicting npeople since cave drawings. But that was more of a nceremony or celebration in terms of portraiture nthe.

Ancient egyptians were the first to nreally depict the gods and pharaohs as the gods and ncelebrate that and record that same thing with the ngreeks and the romans and up into even nmedieval times. Where it was more religious figures. The whole first part nof civilization in terms of what nwe were portraying was the aspiration for nperfection and beauty and our interpretation nof. It largely because of the philosophers of the time it certainly was also nwhere you stood in society.

If you could afford nto get a portrait done in the first place then you re nalready making a statement that i m important when photography came naround. It was no longer a portrayal of a human. It was the reality. It was a human and so there was no cheating.

There was no interpretation. It was still portraiture nbut. It was that person and then around the civil nwar. It was photojournalism and towards the nend of the 1800s people started using portraiture nas.

A means of expression. Rather than just nrecording events and now we re back nto..

The celebrities. Which are our modern nversions of gods. They re the ones who a nlot of people worship. And so my portraiture tries to ntell a little bit of a story.

What i look for is nsomething. You can relate to we ve almost come full circle. But philosophically nit s changed in that it went from deifying nonly. The richest and most powerful humans nto everyday folk music playing i love stories that s what draws nme to photography.

I took a photo at dawn nand. I thought wow this reminds me a lot nof how i feel when i look at photos of my father very disconnected feeling my father was diagnosed nwith alzheimer s in 2007. I started the sleepwalker nproject in 2009 and started taking nportraits of him and then also was ntaking self portraits to participate in it and have nhim not feel like he s alone. I m really trying nto recreate someone who s feeling nincreasingly disconnected with things around them nfrom people around them i try to forget where ni am and focus on him.

And what he s going through and i feel like when i m nactually connected to that those are the best photos. I really wanted to ntrack the disease and have it tell a story nabout. What s happening to him because time is everything nwith alzheimer s like at what point nif. There is a point is he no longer the same person soon or eventually nhe won t know who he is and he won t know who ni am and who anyone around him is so that s why i think also nthat the sleepwalker works as a story portrait photography is nincredibly relatable to us.

I think that a face ncan say so much and portraits are nvery accessible to us. I think that he knows nthat..

It s important to me and feels also that it nserves maybe potentially hopefully a greater good my interest in nportraiture is really driven by my fascination. Nto use the genre to use those photographic ntropes that we re fluent in and pervert. Them nor invert them in some way we understand group portraiture nand family portraiture. So well and we bring our nown projections.

Our own assumptions nto each portrait in the constructed nfamily portrait series i would invite strangers nto rented hotel rooms and i would construct nartificial families and a lot of times they nwere interracial families these are ordinary people they were not actors they weren t model. I didn t pay anyone and i was interested nin the uncanny and that s really why i nworked with strangers. I wanted to find those really nunnatural awkward moments. The moment that nfelt palpably wrong.

But they re kind of nmasked behind the smiles. What would happen was nwhich was interesting the family just kind of norganically took form and it was really dependent and ncontingent on their dynamic. So if the woman for example ntended to be very domineering it tended to take on a more nmatriarchal composition. They intuitively knew nthe certain behaviors and that fascinated me.

And there s been really ninteresting reactions to this series. Where npeople feel deceived even once you do know nthat. It s a construct you still intuitively nmake those connections and project those nnarratives onto the family. It s opening up a nconversation about well what is family now or nwhat does family look like or does it really nlook like this and i find that nreally interesting.

It s because of how close nwe are to the medium and how we understand the nmedium because it s such a part of our everyday lives. There s a lot of ways nto photograph a person and intentions that one could nhave in making a portrait..

What i m interested in nis. Almost exclusively that space between us nthe relational aspects a lot of the nphotographic portrait sittings that i do are ncommissions namely. A magazine for example oftentimes. There s some sort nof.

Biographical piece feature in those situations. In the ncontext of a formal. Sitting. It doesn t work for nme to create some idea and then put them on the idea.

I understand that nmy subject is coming to the sitting with an idea nof. How they might project their own representation. So for example. Nsomewhat recently was a commission.

Nfor. Gq. Magazine. Sam brown was a lieutenant nserving.

In afghanistan. 2008..

Roadside bomb. And nhe s critically injured burned. Across half of nhis body. His face.

So i wanted to ngive him in a way the power over his own image. I took my cable nrelease for my camera and turned it ninside to the frame essentially. I invited him into nthe decision making process. It is a choice so nlet things happen to not apply a nsituation on a person this kind of self reflection non.

The medium and on the idea nof representation. That s not always with nintention or foreknowledge. It s full of improvisation nand intuition and surprise. I think a compelling nportrait makes someone think it makes someone think about nthe person about what they re thinking about as long as they just ndon t flip right by it i think.

It s compelling. We are part of creating nwhat. We perceive and in the case of a nportrait to make us see this person anew. I want to show nsomeone.

My world and if they can relate nto that in a way then that s me relating to them how we re communicating nphotographically is changing and i feel like the nrole of the portrait and the appearance of the nportrait has changed as well ” ..

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