Concealed in the darkness so familiar to the photographers of my youth, clad in the rubber apron and surrounded by the smell of the chemicals essential for this hallowed alchemy I anxiously waited for the magic to once again appear. And then there before me a watery image, an image I had created, an image that captured what my senses perceived but only my heart had seen, and now I could share it with the world. I was hooked.
Years have passed since the days of my youthful exuberance over the photographic image, years in which the passion has only intensified. With each passing year I find myself more and more enthralled with portrait photography, portraiture not purely as a reflection of reality but portraiture as an art form. The iconic images created by the masters of this art form Yousuf Karsh, Arnold Newman, George Hurrell, Clarence Bull, Richard Avedon, Horst P. Horst, and Irvin Penn to mention only a few, have left an indelible mark upon my heart. Portraiture is the art form that immortalizes.
A portrait has the unique ability to reveal the complexities of one’s humanness. A successful portrait delves beneath the surface of a simple likeness, peeling back that which is superficial and revealing the true character of personhood behind the mask. I chose photography as a portrait medium because of its uniqueness of speed. “There is a brief moment when all that there is in a man’s mind and soul and spirit may be reflected through his eyes, his hands, his attitude. This is the moment to record. This is the elusive, “moment of truth”. – Yousuf Karsh
I begin the creating of my photographic portraits long before the first frame is exposed. I want to know all that I can about the nature of the person whose portrait I am creating. The designing of the image is complete before ever placing the subject before the lens. The positioning of the light, the direction of the shadow, and the pose of the subject are all part of the pre-shoot meditations, sometimes continuing for days before the actual shoot. The shoot itself is all about evoking and capturing that essential moment when the mask is lifted. Karsh writes, “The revelation, if it comes at all, will come in a small fraction of a second with an unconscious gesture, a gleam of the eye, a brief lifting of the mask that all humans wear to conceal their innermost selves from the world. In that fleeting interval of opportunity the photographer must act or lose his prize”.
I photograph extremely fast, never giving the subjects a chance to think themselves into self-consciousness. A steady flow of direction mixed with encouragement inspires my subject to climb higher, leave fear behind and embrace the light. Music sets the mood and after a moment or so the subject forgets that they are being photographed and gets caught up in the flow of the event. It is a tango, so to speak. It is the dance of love and passion, the dancers moving with the music and with each other creating movement, emotion, and beauty. I beckon to all my subjects, come dance with me before my lens and I once again wait for the magic.