I was continuing my journey into beauty images – actually, a return to my roots.
It’s interesting, at least to me, how subjects can photograph so differently – we are all individuals after all. Faith photographs beautifully in profile, a fact I only observed while in the act of photographing her:
No matter how hard I plan, there is always that process of discovery. With Faith, she photographs best in profile and “broad” lit (the camera side of her face is lit). She reminded me that I already knew this, but it has been a while since we last shot and, well, I don’t remember as well these days …
But the truth was soon evident.
Although beauty imagery is in some respects idealized, I’ve always felt that there is an element of truth endemic in it. In fact, I don’t think you can venture too far from it. As humans, our visioning system is not as cold and calculating as photography can render it. Emotion determines as much in what we see as those photons hitting the rods and cones in our eye. I have always felt it is my responsibility as a photographer to replicate emotion as much as that reflection of light.
I don’t think you can create beauty from the void, either. It has to come from the subject. The trick, I think, is to extract the essence of what people who have close personal relationships with my subjects see. Beauty is perceived. In many ways the tools of photography obscure that: the lenses are just a little too sharp, the resolution a little too fine. We stare objectively at a photograph in ways we would never do if confronted by that person in real life.
This is nothing new. It’s always been that way. Photographers have used blurring filters and have retouched photographs back when imagery was based on chemical processes and not digital ones. But the goal was the same then as it is now: convey that sense of beauty which is felt as much as seen.
The task, then, is to do so from a flat 2 dimensional image that one stares at void of any initial emotion. A photograph has no context other than what the photographer gives it. It is confined to the frame; there is nothing outside that frame to work with.
And how, exactly, does one do that? How does one add emotion to a collection of pixels or ink dots or tarnished silver?
A photographer does it with the tools at his disposal: light, composition, gesture. And editing. Yes editing – that dirty little word that, at least to me, makes all of the difference in the world. The purpose of all of this is to simplify – to lead us, hand-in-hand, through the image. There may be a whole lotta’ psychology going on – emphasizing what we as a culture perceive as “beauty” – but all of these tools are used to lead the viewer in the right direction to reach a conclusion: the subject is beautiful.
Those ads selling lipstick, blush, eyeshadow, jewelry, et al, have this down to a science. Actually, it’s engineering: producing images drawing on a pattern to help us instantly recognize as pages are flipped in a magazine or flash by us on the television that the subject is beautiful. The photograph is pared down so that we can concentrate on those aspects of the image so that our lazy brains can connect the dots and do it quickly. The subject of the image is beautiful.
There is, in my opinion at least, nothing wrong with that. In fact, I think most subjects deserve this. You’ll find aspects of beauty photography in most of my images. That simplification, that leading the viewer to that conclusion is a big part of my vision. Not for all subjects and all images, but for many. Maybe even most.
Although, truth be told, some subjects make it a tad easier than others.