What I love about the portrait series we’ve been working on, is digging into the subjects and getting to know them on the inside. Our most recent ‘Alone’ series was recently compared to the work of Gregory Crewdson. I can see the similarities in our heavy cinema influences (dramatic lighting with detailed sets) and the disassociated Americana scene. While this is a huge compliment, one of the key differences for me is my connection with the subject(s) in the photos. While Crewdson prefers little to no interaction with the people in his photographs (which works wonders for him), but with my background in acting and directing means I need to be involved, and help develop that character in the scene.
I draw another similarity to Crewdson: we both had parents who were psychoanalysts. In his scenes I enjoy how he displays the complex bundle of emotions that surround us. For me, this developed into a life-long lesson in observing and listening to people to understand both what they were saying (and not saying) and what is the inner conversation, the motivation behind their actions. I find it is this is where their true personality resides (and comes out in the on-set chit chat), and my better work comes from manifesting these bits of character on their face and body.
I think this interaction is also apparent in our on-going portrait series. At very beginning of our portrait process we research the subject to find out what others know of them. If we’re lucky, they have the time to speak with us personally. This really opens up the person and can reveal a lot of inner truths, which is where the connection begins for me in making a great portrait. There should be a story involved in every picture, and in portraits that story is usually what the subject is made of.
Most recently we’ve been shooting portraits with a lot of fine artists (like illustrator Josh Ellingson, monster creator Alex Pardee, mixed-media artist Scott Wilson). Admittedly, this is a bit easier with artists as they tend to pour themselves into their work and it’s easier to interpret. We also find they are open to creative work and are less reserved about committing to a scene as they understand putting themselves into a project. But this is the fun part in every portrait, discovering that something inside that defines the person and having that come out for the camera.