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Thinking of faces

I participate at and another photographer, Emily Bem posed a question in the Member’s Forum: Faces and Places:

Mrs. Bem asks, “Being the portrait enthusiast I am, I always have faces on the brain. I’m pretty limited with volunteers ( as you can tell from my portfolio..ha ha!) so I often find myself thinking of famous faces ( celebrities of any kind, old, young, gorgeous, not so gorgeous…people with character in their features ) that I would love to get my camera on. My question is, if you could shoot anyone, anywhere….. who would it be and what type of location ????”

I told Tracy that I was going to post my thoughts to her question to which she asked, “So you are going to pour out your thoughts there rather than on your Musings?”  Since I could sense a bit of her disappointment, I did what any lazy man would do – copy and paste my response here!

Ok Mrs. Bem here goes…

I am going to start by saying that I may ramble here, in essence vomit my thoughts out on ‘paper’ which I do on my own blog under my Musings. First and foremost, when I first started photographing people seriously, I poured over books and works by Leibovitz, Cartier-Bresson, Avedon and recently Karsh. I yearned to be famous so that I too would have the opportunity to photograph the famous whose notoriety made them household names. I only wanted to shoot the most beautiful as I was first attracted to the physical beauty of those I viewed in movies, politics and television.

But as I progressed, I realized that I would never become famous, hence I would never have the chance to photograph the ‘famous.’ Then one night while browsing through the Bargain books at Borders, I came across a hard back book for only $4.95 titled ‘Women Photographers of National Geographic.’ As I began to look through the book the vast majority of work spoke to me. Most of the images were of people, my favorite subjects. It was then I discovered my personal photographic heroin, Jodi Cobb. Her work was not of the famous, but of people whose names none of us know. It is human nature to be drawn to the beautiful, that which is immediately accessible to our eyes, minds and hearts. Yet Ms. Cobb photographed both the beautiful and those whose beauty was skewed more toward inner beauty.

And then I had my epiphany. Imagery of the famous has impact simply because they are famous. But to photograph a person to reveal who they are, rather than what they look like is something I learned from viewing Jodi Cobb’s work. Her art revealed the inner beauty of each individual and told a story of remarkable and palpable life.

Tracy has introduced me to Brooks Jensen’s Podcasts where he speaks not of the technical side of photography, but the soulful and artful side. I so appreciate listening to his thoughts and musings and perhaps more than any other single facet, he has influenced how I approach and view art. I wrote a prologue to my book ‘Moments of Humanity’ that if only for a moment I am able to convey who someone is through an image, they are strangers to each of us no more. I truly believe those words.

I find that photographing the beautiful feels a bit like ‘cheating’ to me. Don’t get me wrong, I too like looking upon imagery of beautiful women in portraiture. But I find that I tend to focus more on the physical beauty of the subject rather than the ‘inner beauty’ of their soul. So I try to stay away from that subject matter. The other night on PBS there was a documentary on Marilyn Monroe and famous photographers who shot that American Icon. The images that moved me the most were not the ones of just her beauty, but revealed who she is/was. I was in awe of several of the images on my low tech/low resolution TV. (I am NOT a TV person…ask Tracy!)

So to finally get to your question, who would I like to photograph… a famous person? My late father Nori. He died in 1976 and today I am older than he was when he passed away. His outer self was very tough and very stern, but today I know that my view of him as a child was very two dimensional. I believe that today I could capture who he was rather than just what he looked like. In my mind, my Dad is famous to me.

But then again, if Salma Hayek wanted to pose nude for me, perhaps my weaker side would get the best of me….

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