Recently, while listening to one of the podcasts I subscribe to, Philosophy Bites, the subject came up discussing portraits and some various thoughts on portraits being and insight to a person. It isn’t very long and I recommend it.
The podcast resonated with me since it, in some ways, echoed my thoughts of portraits and the people being photographed. I make no claim to have some sort of superpower which allows me to stare directly into the subject’s soul, but I do feel that there is something I learn about the subjects in the act of taking their portraits. Self image, imagination, self-reflection and willingness to take risks come across very clearly during a session.
This is no less true when taking portraits of groups. In general when shooting groups I first ask the people to arrange themselves in a way that feels right to them. Most of the time, aside from some adjusting on my part, they are very close to being spot on. It is very telling about the family on how people position and posture themselves in relation to others in the group. Who stands next to who? What spacing do individual impose? What are they doing with their hands and arms? That says a lot about the dynamics within a family. I am not saying it is a perfect window, but it is very telling.
So, next time you look at a portrait, even if it is a family snapshot by uncle Ray, look at the arrangement, see what things you can pull from that photo, you may be surprised. Likewise, when you are being photographed, what are you telling the world about yourself?