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How to Get Out of the Way of a Portrait

Pondering how a true portrait comes about.

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At first I thought about showing this shot (in-camera) to Ema and saying “try not to look so worried, Ema…” but I resisted and I am glad I did. Somehow, the way her brow is lifted, the way her eyes are focused on some thought far far away … the way her mouth is slightly turned down and so relaxed, the way her hair falls to half cover her face … that light, the soft animal body of Ema … somehow this is who she really is and I am glad I did not try to change her today.

My best portraits are the ones that have reached into a person’s soul and somehow let it shine out through the facial expression, eyes, body language. Not the ones where they were smiling at the camera, being their “perfect selves.”  But the shots where there might be a sadness. A thoughtfulness, some discomfort — or deep comfort. The shots where they weren’t wearing makeup or the clothes they thought they should wear, or perfectly styled hair.  Those best portraits are the ones where I captured a moment dis-armed. The space between two heartbeats. The true heart of a person. When I can do this, I feel deeply satisfied.

 

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