With some regularity, I get emails from students who have to write a paper on portrait photography. The last request made me think..........I shld put a little guide right on my web site. So here goes: My advice is in snippets. Think of me as a querolous aunt who will steer you in the right direction but who won't do the work for you. I am not inserting a lot of links because I want people to surf the web and find things for themselves. Send me yr ideas and suggestions pls.
**If you have to write yr paper on HOW to take a good portrait, go to my cybergodparents: www.photo.net and www.philip.greenspun.com You will find lots and lots of practical information, all solid, at these sites. In fact, you will find everything you need to know.
** It won't hurt to look at lots and lots of images. Don't be afraid to develop yr own ideas.
** Basically, pick a jolly person you like and point yr camera at her/him. I started w/ little kids because they stayed relaxed in front of the camera.
**Pick a photographer whose work you like and try to imitate her/his style. It is harder than you wd think and is a good lesson. Then try another photographer. Eventually, w/out realizing it, you will have yr own style.
**. If yr paper is about portrait photography and portrait photographers, read my essay, "Here We Are, Here We Are" carefully. It includes every idea I ever had abt portrait photography. Use it as background information. Use it as a touchstone, something to agree with and to disagree with. Look at the portraits I have made. There is a section of portraits of people w/ their dogs. Of sisters. Of mothers and daughters. Of couples. There are black and white portraits from the seventies.
** Also, cruise those cybergodparents: www.photo.net and www.philip.greenspun.com You will get an inkling abt portraiture and what working photographers are thinking abt when they make pictures of people. There is much more on those two sites than the HOW.
**. Plan to spend about four hours looking around on the web. It will be daunting if you have a slow connection. Use the search engines www.google.com, www.about.com, and www.yahoo.com for starters. You might know other search engines. Enter "portrait photography" and "portrait photographers." Believe it or not, you will come up with different links. At Yahoo, find the category, "Photography Masters." The number of links in all these categories is daunting. ("daunting" is the key word for research on the web, but the web is a miraculous tool. )
**. Scan the thousand or so suggested links for some site that sounds like a history of portrait photography.You can even enter "history of photography" into the search engine & come up w/ lots of choices. Spend abt an hour cruising through the history of photography site you choose. It will give you an idea of the history and will give you some background. Consider browsing part of your work.
** Follow the links for the photographers who have made wonderful portraits:Berenice Abbott, Diane Arbus, Tina Barney, Gay Block, Bill Brandt, Julia Margaret Cameron, Henri Cartier Bresson, Imogen Cunningham, Reneke Dijkstra, Michael Disfarmer, Yousef Karsh, Annie Leibowitz, Gerard Malanga, Mary Ellen Mark, Lisette Model, Nick Nixon, Nadar, August Sander, Jim Marshall, Timothy Greenfield Sander, Arnold Newman. You can find pictures by these photographers by going to www.google.com and entering their names one by one. Plan to spend a couple of hours finding and looking. And don't be afraid to look up any other photographer who sounds interesting to you.
**. Spend a lot of time looking at the images. The key to whatever you think about portrait photography will come from looking carefully at the images. Read any text you can find by the photographers. I found a great text by Nadar and several essays by Richard Avedon. Read the biographical information about the photographers that you will come across.
**Go to www.ebay.com and see if there is a history of portraiture for sale. Maybe you can get a bargain.It's even interesting to troll through www.amazon.com under portrait photography. There are a lot of titles and it is easy to lose yr place. But if you read the readers' reviews and the book reviews of certain titles and certain photographers you might get some ideas. It is fun to read what other people think of Diane Arbus, Nick Nixon, Mary Ellen Mark, et al.
**Remember that serendipidy and luck are key words when using the web. Go everywhere and look at everything. Make temporary bookmarks because it is easy to forget where you have been. Follow links that sound interesting or intriguing. If you have a slow connection at home, go to a library that has a fast connection. I frankly don't know much abt downloading images w/ a slow connection. Except that it must take patience.
**A question to ask yourself: how does the personality of the sitter matter?
**QTAY: how does the personality of the photographer affect the portrait?
**QTAY: how can a shy person be a good portrait photographer?
**QTAY: what can you tell abt a person from their portrait? Try to write a paragraph abt a person whose portrait you really like.
**QTAY: what is so special about the images of Disfarmer?
**QTAY: how does what the person is wearing matter? How important is the ankle bracelet? Hint: Diane Arbus, a giant of portraiture, spent eleven years as a stylist for an advertising photographer. A stylist decides what the person in the advt will wear.
** QTAY: how does where the person is photographed matter? Maybe compare Annie Lebowitz's work and Arnold Newman's work.
**QTAY: How are portraits of two, three people, a group different from portrait of one person?
**QTAY: What about a portrait of just a person's head/face? Their whole body? Just their hands? Them from the back??
**QTAY: What do you think of portraits of the same people over time? Hint:see Nick Nixon's work.
**QTAY: What are the differences between Richard Avedon's work and Arnold Newman's work?
**QTAY: What are yr favorite images at Mary Ellen Mark's site? Do you have a clue why you like the ones you've picked?
**QTAY: How does the work of Yousef Karsh strike you?
**QTAY: Which photographers seem influenced by August Sander?
**QTAY: How was Diane Arbus influenced or not influenced by Lisette Model, her teacher?
**QTAY: Look at the portraits in Rolling Stone and magazines that you like? Figure out how they compare and how they are different from the ones you are finding on the web. How are portrait styles changing?
**QTAY: What photographer wd you like to have photograph you and why.
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