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Portraits Done By Feel


As someone who takes photography seriously I spend a lot of time looking at the surfaces of people and things. It appears that these surfaces are my primary concern. Is the light right? Is the texture right? Is the person sitting up straight? But that's not true. My focus is not in how a thing looks but how it feels.

So much of portrait photography, as I see it, is done by feel. Light is important and so is the person staring back at me but there's a subtle quality of feel that's always going on. What is the feeling that wants to manifest and can I affect it?

This is a strange art form, as mysterious to me as fiction writing, but I find that if I lean into it the result is always true.

Who we are, the essence of who we are, lies so much deeper than the surface. Yet something at the surface does convey it. This is not a riddle to be solved just an observation. After doing hundreds of portraits I have learned, or at at least perceived, that there is something of all of us in every face. I am not talking about noses and eyes and chins. Yes, we all have those. I'm talking about being, a quality of being.

There is a frequency of sorts and we can all tune in, are always tuned in, but when two of us are together and there is a moment of harmony I notice that there is a not-so-subtle change at the surface. This is thrilling. And it never fails to occur. Not when we're being honest with each other.

My job, as I see it, is to engender that honesty. To make a person comfortable, yes, but also to make them feel okay with feeling okay. So if you're going to sit for a portrait with me be prepared to feel something. It's the feeling that comes through. I know that sounds hokey but I cannot argue with results.

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