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The portrait in review

From: Narrative Portraiture: On Location in New York with Rodney Smith

Video: The portrait in review

Here we are going to take a few minutes to review the photographs that I captured of Rodney. I have printed all of these on this velvet fine art paper. You can see there's a little black box here. I am going to send these pictures to him, because, you know, a lot of times as photographers, we are creating pictures for ourselves, but it's also interesting to see others' responses to those same pictures. Well, here is the first one. This picture was all about working with what I had. Rodney walked up in front of the studio, and I like this one.

The portrait in review

Here we are going to take a few minutes to review the photographs that I captured of Rodney. I have printed all of these on this velvet fine art paper. You can see there's a little black box here. I am going to send these pictures to him, because, you know, a lot of times as photographers, we are creating pictures for ourselves, but it's also interesting to see others' responses to those same pictures. Well, here is the first one. This picture was all about working with what I had. Rodney walked up in front of the studio, and I like this one.

I like how there is a window behind him. He is a little bit off to the side, not centered in the frame. It's an honest picture, and I like that it's telling of who he is and his space. Well, next, we walked over to this great door, and I really liked this door. One of things that I knew I needed to do here was to experiment within this location. This first picture, it's one of my favorites. I like his hand on his face; he looks comfortable, at ease.

It's telling about who he is. And I like how the details are right. There are nice lines, but it's not too perfect. Here's another perspective of that same picture. This time it's a little bit more close. See, I've cropped out, on camera, the window above and some of the shutter. I think this one is even a little bit more simple and strong. One of the things I love about this setting is it was a lucky moment to have these two pots sitting there, because everything is so perfect, but those few elements of imperfection, they make it a bit more real.

And I like how he's squaring off a bit, leaning on that door, almost leaning towards the camera, almost asking a question. Here is that same scene, this time in a horizontal perspective with a wide-angle lens taking in a bit more. You can see the kitchen in the background, the lights on, almost wondering what's happening on the inside. I love this whole thing with the inside looking out. One of the things I wanted to do of course was to get close, and so here I'm approaching the door and I'm getting closer.

Now, it's not so much about Rodney's house anymore; it's a little bit more about him, about being surrounded by lines, by sitting within this geometric space. And so I get closer, and this time he is on the bottom of the frame, and I like that. It's almost like he's more present there. There is more of him separated from the background, and the frame--or the door-- becomes almost a frame, a little thin edge surrounding him in this darkness.

That's almost like he is illuminated, almost glowing, sitting there in that spot. And that expression, perhaps there's a little bit of a smile. I like it. Here again is another photograph, moving even closer. The door is now completely irrelevant, with his hand on his face. And just moments after this picture is this next one. It's amazing to me what a difference a few moments can make, and I think I like this one perhaps even a bit more, although I think they're both really strong-- I enjoy them both.

Again, this is more about him, about who he is, than about space or his context or where he lives or him in a larger sense. This is him up close and really personal. Well, then we moved to that next location, the stone arch. I like the stone arch. I like the vines, the stonework, the grass, but it was a difficult spot for me; it just wasn't quite working. And while this picture is good, in my opinion it isn't great.

There's almost maybe too much going on. Here I am trying to do something else. He is looking out the frame, legs crossed, a little bit different perspective. It's close, but it's not... it just wasn't there. Well, I moved in a bit closer, and I am liking that. I like that it's a little bit more about him than the arch. Well, then I decided to flip things around a bit. We walked through the arch and looked back the other way, and I like this one.

I like that he's in the center of the frame, that the stones aren't so prominent, but they're really framing who he is, standing there. And again, he's at ease. He is in his home, his backyard. He fits that spot well. Well, then I knew I needed to take a risk. I asked him to step down those two steps. This would position him so he would look up a little bit. And in this case I think it is a vulnerable expression and picture, and I think that does give a certain amount of authenticity to it. And if you compare this one to the photograph just after it, again, it's amazing the difference of just a couple of moments.

And out of these two photographs, I like this one. I like his expression. It's almost like his eyes are smiling. There's a little bit of a smile on his face. It's not so much about being vulnerable as it is about being hopeful. And you know, in reflecting upon these photographs, they resonate with me. And a lot of the review of your pictures has to do with who you are. Well, what did you set out to capture? What was your goal? And I think by really defining that, perhaps in some words or maybe even with a few sketches, it can help you get closer to actualizing what your vision actually is. What is the story that you want to tell? At the end of the day, if a photograph is good or bad, ultimately, in a sense, it's up to you.

Does it connect with you, does it communicate with you, does it resonate with you, and is it part of your voice? Because really, as photographers, what sets us apart isn't necessarily what other people think. Well, that's important, but perhaps even more important is what do we think, what do you think? You have to pay attention to that and make pictures because of that.

Show transcript

This video is part of

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  1. 2m 13s
    1. Welcome
      1m 27s
    2. Introduction to Rodney Smith
      46s
  2. 31m 37s
    1. Creating serene photographs...spontaneously
      4m 37s
    2. Creating photographs that ask questions
      4m 43s
    3. What makes a photograph good?
      5m 28s
    4. Film, digital, and the importance of the artifact
      6m 1s
    5. Contrast, tone, and black and white versus color
      5m 0s
    6. The early years and photography today
      5m 48s
  3. 13m 16s
    1. First impressions: A portrait without the subject
      3m 52s
    2. The finishing room
      1m 4s
    3. The darkroom
      7m 13s
    4. The final print room
      1m 7s
  4. 23m 11s
    1. Selecting the gear
      3m 41s
    2. Shooting the portrait
      6m 13s
    3. Reviewing the plan for the shoot
      2m 6s
    4. The portrait in review
      6m 36s
    5. Large prints in review
      4m 35s
  5. 8m 33s
    1. Why take pictures?
      2m 11s
    2. Cultivating the discipline to print
      2m 8s
    3. Exploring Rodney Smith's "The End"
      4m 14s
  6. 5m 27s
    1. Embracing a theme: Surprise, whimsy, or cliché
      55s
    2. Creating photos that ask questions
      2m 22s
    3. Creating fashion photos with a unique style
      2m 10s
  7. 26m 40s
    1. Photography is a reflection of who we are
      1m 47s
    2. Photography is about the art of observation
      1m 57s
    3. Working with models
      2m 10s
    4. Raise more questions than you answer
      3m 5s
    5. Mentors strengthen our vision
      3m 37s
    6. There is a right place for certain things
      4m 39s
    7. What influences you?
      3m 22s
    8. The camera as a tool for gaining wisdom
      3m 6s
    9. Creating photographs deepens who we are
      2m 57s
  8. 33s
    1. Conclusion
      33s

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