Thinking About a Photo Portrait

Laurie says:

The image below is a portrait I recently finished of Bill Humphries.

I only rarely take portrait commissions because folks have to be very comfortable with all the final art choices being mine. This one of Bill is my most recent commissioned portrait.

Bill Humphries

It was a bit of a saga and he was very patient about it. Shortly after I did the shoot I fell at a BART station and really stressed a couple of ligaments in my foot. It was one of those injuries that heals just fine eventually but takes a long time. (It’s fine now.) When my body worker said 8 months, I was not thrilled.

Standing for long periods of time was the hardest thing to do and, of course, that’s what you do in the darkroom. I managed working prints after 3 months, but then all the travel started, Bill just got the print a month or so ago, a year after our first conversation. He was remarkably relaxed and comfortable about the wait and extremely pleased with the final image.

Obviously, the first thing that’s important is a fine portrait, but the complexity of the background is this image was very challenging. You’re seeing the final crop from a larger working print, and getting the choices of the aesthetics of the dense background and the light is this was crucial. And since this is an environmental portrait, the sense of history and time in the background was really important. It’s not just photographing someone with their stuff – I want a sense of their reality and also a sense that this is more than in the moment.

Because of my injury (which did take almost exactly 8 months to heal) I had a lot of time to think about the picture. I usually take several months between shooting and starting to print. I like to keep the images in my head and think on them.

When I finally went into the darkroom the way I wanted the image was very clear.

Art, Photography, Portraiture, Body Impolitic

4 thoughts on “Thinking About a Photo Portrait

  1. That’s really lovely to read — in the day to day quick turnaround of our portrait studio there is almost never time to really sit with a portrait and render it to fullness (goodness, yes, but fullness….) and I miss that feeling. It’s nice to know not everyone is addicted to photoshop actions and 3 day turnaround. :)

  2. Jeliza,

    Thanks for your compliment on my process. What you said, also got me thinking about the other kind of fast shooting that seizes a moment. Not the “instant” portrait, but the ability to see something momentary and shoot before it’s gone. I can do that with facial expressions when I’m working but I admire (and don’t share) the ability to do it total scenes.


    Thanks, glad you liked it.

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