The portrait: An artistic representation of an individual or individuals

Making Pictures With Professional Photographer John Enman

John Enman says

John Enman says

For most photographers a portrait is an artistic representation of an individual or individuals, with the goal of capturing some likeness as to who they are.

Famous American photographer, Richard Avedon carried this further when he said, “A portrait is not a likeness. The moment an emotion or fact is transformed into a photograph it is no longer a fact but an opinion. There is no such thing as inaccuracy in a photograph. All photographs are accurate. None of them is the truth.”

Popular American painter Jamie Wyeth wrote, “Everything I paint is a portrait, whatever the subject.”

For years most of the photography I did was portraiture, whether wedding pictures for a family, or private sessions. My opinion is that portraits are pretty narcissistic and because of that, can be much harder to do properly than many other photographic pastimes.

Make a bad landscape and no one will really care, capture a bird flying poorly and it’s no big deal; however if you give someone an unflattering photograph of themself and you might make an enemy for life.

A portrait can be a representation of anything, and doesn’t necessarily need to only be of people.

Years ago my wife and I had show dogs and would regularly attend and participate in events in hopes of having the judges select our dog as best from some group.  When we did win, we would walk our dog to a photography booth set up by a skilled dog portraitist to have their portrait taken that day when they looked so good and had performed so well.

As I watched a TV show earlier this week I noticed framed pictures of the owner’s cat hanging on the wall. I have seen all types of pet portraits in friends homes. I suppose a picture of a favourite or special car, motorcycle, boat or even treasured holiday snapshot, might be called a portrait.

I wonder if many photographers might agree with the painter Wyeth’s contention that, “Everything I paint (or photograph) is a portrait, whatever the subject.”

Some time ago I went for a slow drive along the winding roads high above my place in Pritchard hoping to find some cows, horses, or deer to photograph. I wanted head and shoulder compositions (or portraits), not animals in the landscape.

I leisurely drove around, passing lots of roadside deer; cows quietly chewing their cud, and finally stopped near two horses standing very close to a fence.

My choice was to compose of portrait of them instead of just a pleasing documentary of two horses in a field. So I mounted a 24-85mm lens on my camera, walked through the wet grass to the fence, and worked angle after angle, changing focal length continually.

I suppose the words “artistic representation” and “goal of capturing some likeness” are appropriate when a photographer captures human-like qualities in animal portraits. I wanted a picture that included me, or at least inferred some conversation between the horses about me. My image is, as Avedon said, “….an opinion”.

These are my thoughts for this week. Contact me at www.enmanscameratalk.com or emcam@telus.net. Stop by Enman’s Camera at 423 Tranquille Road in Kamloops. I sell an interesting selection of used photographic equipment.

Don’t hesitate to call me at 250-371-3069.