Are portraits relevant today?

Lighting is the essence of photography, her the basic 5 set ups are demonstrated Credit - Jhan Siraj

Where would the world of photography be without the portrait. Ever since modern photography appeared it would seem portraits have be the staple of every photographers diet and the one subject that provides what no other can.

We live in a world where change is pretty superficial and controlled. This can be said to apply to many genres and subjects leaving special effects and cheap tricks to be the attention seeking tools many would-be photographers use. That quick fix of adoration that sweeps by like the taste of sure from a small sweet. Yet for all this change and control one thing remains constantly changing and that is the human. 

For creative photographers looking for the unique and pure then photographing humans is the one place you can go to get unique. No one has ever lived before or will live again. We are and will always be unique no matter what oppressed programming is or has been forced upon us. It is easy to combine everyone into categories like Oriental, Black, White, English, German, Catholic, Muslim Jewish and the list goes on but a photographer looks beyond this. Like a nature photographer who looks beyond the trees and scrub to find miniature worlds or an architectural photographer who sees lines and shape where the mortal man sees structure simply as a whole. A portrait photographer has to look at the individual and go beyond the actor and through their armour to the soul of that person. 

This is where portraiture really comes into its own. Some photographers choose to see the outer person, some the inner, some the visual and some the person of whom they are reminded of. Portraits are not just pictures of people they are pages of that persons life book. Every book has chapters that are loved, hated, feared remembered and forgotten but without them all it is a very dull story to be told. The book can be formal, candid, snapshot, professional, environmental or whatever you want as long as it captures something about that person.

I have heard many opinions from photographers and artists who suggest that a portrait should be their vision of the sitter and to a part they are right. But shooting a portrait of a person who wants to look the way they wish to believe they are is as much a true portrait of that person as any other focus. Portraits are part of a whole, not individually representative of anyones life. If you could choose one portrait of yourself could you truly say that this one image was your life?. I could not.

Do you think this is reserved for the rich, wealthy, famous?. No, every single person who has ever lived, is living or will live has a story to tell and in most cases these are stories with more depth and interest than any superficially created character. 

I for one love portraiture and i love the puzzle of portraiture that comes when many pages have been taken by many photographers. The individual photographs no longer stand alone and instead combine to be the greater portrait of a person. This is why everyone needs portraits throughout their lives by different photographers seeing different things.

Without this you will be remembered as a two dimensional image who lived in a three dimensional world rather than a three dimensional human living in a two dimensional world.




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