I usually start a portrait session by asking my subject to stand in front of a simple backdrop and move a little. Side to side, hands in pockets or not, arms crossed, head up or down, profile and full on. I might move the light now and again. We refine our approach by looking at the images and agreeing on good angles, right lighting, too much this or too little that. With those things in mind if the session is designed to be an exploration, we continue in a similar way. Or we start in on the images we have already chosen to do. My preference is for a simple set up -- a muted background, usually a single light and little else. I avoid giving more than a few basic directions so the person I'm working with will have the freedom to let themselves be. Sometimes we have music, we have conversation when it doesn't interfere, and there is always a lot of room to experiment.
Stacey is beautiful. It's as simple as that. She's funny, sarcastic, smart and a little bit angry, too, and that makes her satisfying to work with. Every part of a conversation flows across her face in dozens of fleeting, subtle expressions. At first I felt like I was trying to catch the perfect shot of a perfect bit of sunlight reflecting perfectly on the ocean. Then I realized I was best off letting the conversation flow and simply recording everything that happened. Light loves her skin. My original intent was to present these portraits only in black and white because the smoothness of her skin translates as if it were alabaster. But just like she is, the original images are golden and warm, so I've included them as well.
More than anyone I know, Michael's images speak for him. He has grace and beauty, his movements are precise and he laughs easily the way a satisfied person will. I asked that he vogue while I photographed him because I wanted the way he uses his hands to be seen, and to have them be frames for his face. Years of rigorous dance training have given him a physical carriage that is hard to ignore, so I worked in close for these shots to avoid distractions.
Esra is a delightful enigma. She is easily open about herself and happy to share her thoughts, but I sense there is an entirely separate life that is hers alone, and she's not about to share. I like that -- I'm intrigued by those who know not everything should be open to public consumption. And dancing around a person's secrets makes the photographing process, with it's chatter and questions and persistent but gentle efforts to satisfy my curiosities all the more fascinating. It adds more layers to the portraits, as well. Looking at these images makes me wonder what causes a bit of a smile, and what's behind the way she's set her shoulder. I like the way these four show Esra's moods -- she can be quite forceful, and a little shy, open to what surrounds her, but not one for much nonsense.
I was looking for a black female dancer to complement the pictures I recently did of Michael Crawford. Asia appeared a little while ago, and I put her images up earlier this month. She's not an accomplished dancer, but simple movement makes her happy and she enjoyed that part of the session. Not so when we started concentrating on her portraits, though. If I have to ask someone to stop smiling all the time, its because they're feeling unsure of themselves and apprehensive about the process they've agreed to take part in. For some people, holding still and posing clothed can be a more difficult thing than posing nude. Naked movement allows the person to disappear into the music, but being still and confronting the camera leaves very few places to hide. And so it was for Asia, until we managed to ease her through her concerns. I chose these four images because they show who she is: a young woman interested in herself and the ways she can show her sensuality to the world around her.
What I want from the work I do is a group of images that best describe the person I've photographed. I want some of the variety that makes them unique -- happy at times and perhaps not so much so, present in the moment or lost somewhere far outside the studio, loving and open or closed and protected. I like the people I work with to wear as little as comfort will allow since clothing can be as much a mask as is turning off the lights. In my experience most people are more at ease being photographed while nude or nearly so, and able to give over more of their inner selves to the camera because of it. I like to work with people more then once, and over and over again with those who are able to let themselves be seen. There's an intimacy to this work that makes my studio a safe and easy place where people can be themselves without fear or embarrassment, and where they can see themselves through their own eyes.