What Is a “Contemporary Editorial” Portrait?

I use these words to describe how I photograph people. If you ask me for a concise definition, you’ll probably find me hemming and hawing a little. Eyes go down. Eyes come back up.

The reality is there is no precise definition.

But if you look at my portfolio, a few trends become clear:

  • the images are simple and clean compositionally
  • I understand that photography means “light drawing” in the original Greek. With that understanding, I use light to emphasize and flatter the subject
  • my emphasis is on expression and the connection the subject has with the viewer

The contemporary nature of my photography is therefore in how I compose, light, and interact with the subject. I would say it is graphic in orientation, though the subject is the focus. A contemporary portrait is also a reflection of who the subject is, rather than a standardized way of presenting them. Their lifestyle is an important ingredient, and as it is their portrait, I want this to come through also.

Editorial is generally considered to be “story telling.” The term derives from publishing, where editorial content is generally everything in a magazine, for example, except the front cover and the ads. The point of photographs in a magazine is to help tell the story.

But if you look at the ads, the ones featuring people, they often tell a story, don’t they?

A portrait should also tell a story about the subject. Sometimes I use environment to add interest and help set the stage. Often, however, the story can be told with just the subject. That story is one of beauty, strength, character, or all of the above. This is where expression and mood created by lighting come into play.

I mention ads because they are a very big influence on how I photograph. I am also a student of Hollywood Glamour photography of the early part of the twentieth century. Part of the story I tell, part of what makes my photography “contemporary editorial,” is the fact that glamour plays a very big part in the presentation. In fact, I used to describe myself as a “beauty & glamour” photographer, but that is more of a stylistic approach on my part rather than the genre that I shoot. And “contemporary editorial beauty and glamour” photographer takes too long to say.

One final point that I want to make is that I try not to be trendy. A portrait is a significant investment. It should be as beautiful 20 years from now as it is today. There is a timelessness that comes with successful imagery, and that timelessness comes from an attention to detail and lessons learned from hundreds of years of portraits – drawing, painting, etc. –  and photography.

 

 

This entry was posted in Philosophy.