What does it mean to take or make a portrait? I've always kept my artistic and photographic processes pretty separate, but whilst flicking through these stunning shots of Sarah Wilson, it occurred to me that they are inextricably linked. A life time of burying my head in fashion magazines, photography magazines and art historical geekdom, has no doubt informed my obsession with the portrayal of a person.
However, portraits shoots don't often call to mind anything but cheese; high street stops with white backgrounds and white shirts; formulaic poses and set ups; and cringe, those generic blocks of different shapes to sit in and on... I cannot even think of them without a shudder up my spine. So what's the alternative?
You might see from the way my portfolio is set up, here on my website, that there are two distinct sides to my work- natural and editorial.
The natural style is exactly that- unassuming, effortless and honest.
But how do you achieve a higher end look, with a real edge of style or character, without bleeding into that 'high street photographer' territory where more make up is more?
In my opinion, you create something, together. Being playful and eccentric and 'give-a-fuck' gorgeous, is way more exciting to shoot, and to look at in print. Here, Sarah was completely open to my ideas. Dressing her in my vintage 1940s kimono, gave her a sense of freedom in front of the camera; to give someone a role to play, rather than just a prop to hold, helps them to inhabit the moment as something, rather than trying to wade through their own insecurities or self awarenesses. Furthermore, to be 'editorial' is to be that much more naked.. not always literally, but in expression and presence in front of the camera.
This set of photographs is somewhere between that super editorial style of mine, and the more natural side to my work. As much as we created a look and a moment,
everything which Sarah gave the camera was real and honest, and there are moments here which she holds the lens captive. THAT is portraiture,
whether I'm drawing it or shooting it; it's enabling someone to give you that connection. If I get the chance to be a bit edgier and more creative, then all the better.. but it cannot replace the honesty and frankness of all great portraits.
Not to labour the point here, but the experience of working on a shoot like this is hugely rewarding for the model, as well as for me. It creates a safe space in which to be confident, expressive and entirely yourself.. and in this social media, pictorially dense world we live in, anything which isn't a 'selfie' has infinitely more value. You don't have to be getting married to experience something like this, you can just work on a styled portrait shoot.. and why not?
It might be time for me to get back into my drawing pretty soon, if I can get through my mountain of photographic work.. but I'm a workaholic! So if you want to look as gorgeous as this, and want to play 'dress up and look cool' get in touch.
Enjoy the festive reds, and perhaps the fact that this post might be the only thing on your feed which isn't christmas or x-factor related!
Thanks to Sarah for looking so drop dead fine :)