Capture a Portrait at an Intimate Event
What is a portrait? How does it differ from other images you capture? Well for me, for one thing, again, as I said it earlier, you have the freedom to direct. You have the freedom to ask someone to move, to change the positioning of their body, their heads, put them in the light that you want to put them in, put them in the background that you want, arrange them how you want, okay? It's the one area of this kind of photography that you truly can be like a director. You know? And then, the other thing is making a connection with the people, so that you are able to try to capture their essence, their character, right. Let me share some, so here are some portraits from Alfie's birthday party. So this is Alfie. And this is when I got her to play a little bit. I hate seeing kids who are sad. And then this is the family portrait. They liked this, so that was cool, if that's how you want to remember it, that's alright. But it's also nice when you photograph people who are playful and who aren...
't uptight, but you can't count on that all the time. So some portraits that I've made in these situations. This is a dear friend's, Brian and Elody, and this is their daughter, I'm actually her godfather. I need lessons on how to be a good godfather. But it's hard, I'm gone so much. So Eva, she's so beautiful and this was just a moment where we had all gathered, it was like a friends gathering, and so this is just this lovely moment in the light. We were at a nursing home, this was in Colorado, and we were at an event and again, this is an example where it's a portrait, but it was okay. I didn't want her, in this case, looking into the camera. Also in terms of the aesthetics of this, this was early on in my mobile photography career, when I was using, what's it called? Hipstamatic. I have nothing against Hipstamatic, but I don't use it anymore. But where it was like, "Oh my God, gee whiz, "we can have all these looks to our pictures!" Now, I'm more about shooting it straight, and then doing somewhat basic post production, but then it was sort of like, "Wow, this is so cool." This was in Nigeria, I was in the Amir's Palace, and I was waiting for this event to start, which of course, I had been invited to; otherwise, there's no way I would have been in this place. And these are some of the guards, and I was, "Oh my god, I want friends who look like that. "No or dress like that." It was just this beautiful, and again, working with composition, in this case, this is more of a formal composition, where I'm working with right angles. This is, in some ways an example of what I call, "A frame within a frame." Not exactly, but kind of using the frame that exists of the doorway. So, capturing a portrait at Alfie's birthday party. Let's see what happened here. (laughing) <v Woman's Voice>Do you want to do a dragon pose? Can you do a dragon pose?
Wait, one thing one thing. Excuse me, thank you. Okay, good! Alright, eyes right in the camera. Wait, okay thank you, there we go. Nice, nice! So Alfie, chin up. Chin up a little bit. Yeah, hold just like that, that is great! That is great hold just like that. Oh, I love that, I love that pose look at you. No, put your hands back the way you had them. No? Okay. This man's gonna do what he wants. (Woman Chattering) I like this guy, he's got a mind of his own.
Nice, nice. Thanks man. Happy birthday. Alright, everybody look at the camera. That's it! Nice, nice! Big smiles! Cool, one more, one more. Okay, really serious, really serious. That's it! Okay, now crazy, be crazy, be crazy! Thank you. (laughs) Happy birthday! (laughter) Totally creepy, no, sorry. So that was what's few things you see how I'm directing them and it was interesting when Alfie, you know, he had to have this great pose and then he... and when I told him to do it again he didn't do it, I wasn't gonna parry with him like that. You know you're making this snap moment, this decision, this is not a good time to get him on my bad side. (laughs) Now I find this little technique of you know, "Let's be really serious and then be goofy", that is not something, again, that I do if I'm photographing Bill Gates right, or if I'm photographing you know some important or if I'm photographing in a serious manner as a journalist but I do find that in these kinds of settings, it's a lovely way to disarm people because you know sometimes what happens is, when your portrait is being taken, you start to put a mask on, and it could be a very contorted mask 'cause especially if the photographer is taking a little bit of time so that you're, all these emotions are going through your head and I smile and I'm like serious and sometimes it's just good to have almost like just say "Okay clean it off, lets do a clean slate, "just be totally silly or be really serious." And then, something can emerge out of that that is genuine and relaxed. In this case we were just going for silly and serious. Yes.
A couple of questions and grab a mic if you have one here, so for these intimate events, do you find it easier or harder to photograph those because they are people that you know?
I mean it's easier on the one hand because I'm not I don't have to battle for access and that's something that in the work I do so often I'm battling for access into people's lives to photograph things that, again, as I said at the top, why would anybody ever let us photograph these things? So in that case that element is removed. I think what can be, again, as someone who approaches things in a very serious manner, sometimes it's difficult to capture joy. And it's something I've actually gotten better at than 10, 15 years ago, it was much harder for me to do something like this because I was more cynical I was more like, "There's no edge to this." Now I'm like, "Screw that." it's like, thank god we have moments of joy and happiness right? That I think I've become more open to the idea of the full gamut of human emotion as opposed to, "I just have to focus "on this narrow band of misery." So in that sense now where I'm at in my life I welcome these opportunities where there's no friction, I'm welcome, so I can kind of do what I want, I can play, I can have fun, and then I can also make connections with people in a positive positive moment, situation.
That's really beautiful. Another further question about that in being in an environment where it is people that you know, and maybe you're actually trying to celebrate along with them, what advice do you have for people to just put the camera down and be there and how do you know when to stop really?
That's a great question. As a journalist it's always hard you're not supposed to do that. There have been some times where I've broken down and I have gotten involved or it was necessary to put my camera down and be involved in the situation. But you have to go with the flow that's a great question and well especially if you're... let's think about it so have you guys ever been to a wedding where, we actually did this when we got married a while ago, this was in the analog days when we put out baskets with the Boss cameras and we'd put out baskets with rolls of film 'cause of course a lot of photographers came to my wedding and it was like, "Go photograph, "but please leave it when you're done." and so I wonder if you were a guest and it's like, "It's a Sunday afternoon, I don't wanna work, "I just wanna be here at a wedding, I wanna chill out, "I don't wanna have to work." So to answer your question it's dictated by the mood that you're in and, again, we get back to that word intention and purpose. If your intention and purpose is to chill out that day at that event, then you probably shouldn't push the photography too hard. 'Cause you're probably not gonna be too happy, it's gonna be a chore, and it should not be a chore. It should be something that you, from your heart, you genuinely wanna do.