Visual Narratives: 25 Remarkable People
PART 1: 25 Remarkable People
For the past year,
my marketing consultant Stephanie Menuez (www.stephaniemenuez.com) has been encouraging me to get out and shoot more. Because Stephanie evaluates portfolios of photographers throughout the United States, she is an expert in recognizing great images. Many of her clients work in the ad agency and editorial worlds visual content is heavily weighted toward lifestyle photography.
On the other hand,
my work is primarily in the corporate photography world. I shoot business portraits, headshots, and environmental portraits. My clients require high quality and consistency. The images have to be shot the same way so they will fit within the format needed for their marketing. As a result, creative latitude is fairly narrow. Stephanie wants me to hone my visual narrative skills. As a result, she wants me to find interesting people to photograph in new and compelling ways.
At the same time,
my photography guru, Chris Orwig issued an indirect challenge to me to do the same thing. He recently wrote a new book, Authentic Portraits. Combined with a series of webinars to accompany the book, he inspired me to initiate this project. This isn’t the first time Orwig has inspired me. He has helped to shape my style and technique over the years.
One of his most valuable pieces of advice he has given me is to slow down. I have a tendency just like many photographers to snap away given the fact that we our camera’s memory card has an almost unlimited amount of space. By slowing down, taking a breath, you have the opportunity to reveal more of a person’s identity and soul.
Aidan is a woman who I “discovered” when I saw her compelling performance as Edie Doyle in “On the Waterfront,” at the Roundabout Theatre in Minneapolis. I eventually tracked her down on social media (no, I’m not a stalker!). Somehow I felt our paths would cross.
Aidan was perhaps the easiest person I could ask to initiate this series. She loves to have her picture taken and knows how to pose. She came armed with lots of wardrobe and accessory options. Expression comes natural to her regardless as to whether it was prompted.
The challenge for me
was to get her to stop playing a part and be authentically who she is and not the actress Aidan. The purpose of the shoot was not to illustrate what she looked like. It was to reveal her essence.
A technique suggested by Chris Orwig got us going in this direction. After shooting a few mundane shots to confirm technical considerations like lighting, exposure, and composition, I posed a question: “Tell me what matters to you most.”
She talked. I listened.
In between, we shot some pictures. Aidan’s actress persona dropped. What matters to her most is her family. She struggles to live with an alcoholic father. He’s been addicted her entire life. She is most like her mother who was a model at one time and now, like Aidan, is a server at a high end Minneapolis restaurant. By day, a waitress. By night, an actor, producer, and playwright. She seems to be involved in numerous projects. Her latest vision: writing a new play based on “The Black Dahlia.”
Chris Orwig says,
“Mediocre portraits are always cluttered, overly complicated, and unclear—they are full of noise. Good portraits are mindful, focused, and alive. The best portraits speak to us without making a sound.” I tried to follow this credo when I too Aidan’s photos. For the most part, we used a simple background, either black or white. I wanted to strip away any distractions and concentrate on her identity, her own process of self-reflection as she talked, and the emotion she brought to her personal story.
some interesting and flattering features. Her broad jaw structure combined with pale skin, a brushstroke of soft freckles, and green Irish eyes make her pleasant to look at. Her looks, however, are just a fraction of what makes these images interesting to me. It’s they way her spirit shines that makes the photos work.
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