The definition of a portrait to me is “a picture that tells something about someone”. A picture that just show how someone looks isn’t good enough for me. I want to visualise something of the character of the person in front of my lens. It’s hard enough to capture someone’s main character features but whenever possible I like to dig a little deeper and get through the first layer of someone’s personality. Most people like to put other people into general categories: “he’s a funny guy”, “she’s a shy girl”, “that’s a very serious man”, … But I believe every interesting personality is much more complex than just that one stand-out character feature. Even the most serious person, can laugh his ass off and even the most careless girl, has a serious side, …
It’s not always easy to break through that superficial layer. In fact, it’s usually hard work and I can only achieve that goal if the person on the other side is willing to open up to me. I try to create the right atmosphere and conditions for this but in the end only the sitter can make the decision to let down his/her guard.
A while ago I photographed this young woman. It isn’t much of a challenge to make a pleasing picture of such a classic beauty. But the real challenge became clear when she told me that she was tired of her nice-girl image. It’s not that she isn’t a nice girl. She was very pleasant to work with and didn’t even complain when it got freaky cold on location. She didn’t seem to mind that people saw her as the nice girl, but I felt like she also wanted to show more sides of her personality. So that became my quest for this portrait session.
My first idea was to try to focus on woman rather than the girl. Despite the nerves from being in front of the camera for the first time, I got a lot of attitude and subtle expressions back.
Most photography books will tell you to stay out of a person’s comfort zone but it’s advice that I often disregard. Sure, you have to build up to it but when you start shooting someone from a close distance they have only two options: put up a wall in front of them or open up. It’s my job to make sure they choose the second option. I guess it’s about making people feel comfortable outside their comfort zone. But all credit goes to D for having the guts to step out of that comfort zone.
To dial up the attitude I was lucky enough to have an incredible make-up artist on this shoot. The wild hair and powerful make-up, made it easy on D to show her wilder side. A good make-up artist doesn’t change people, but brings out a different side of their personality.
The last rays of sunlight where no match for the cold wind sweeping over our location. But before calling it a day we did one last set of pictures. And it was then, after the very first frame, that I knew I achieved my goal of showing a different side of D.