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April 10, 2017

What Classic Portraiture Means to Me

When I think of classic portraiture, immediately what comes to mind is a black and white picture with a person laughing or experiencing some kind of candid joy. Is that true for anyone else? I mean, what could be more timeless than a candid black and white photo? They will just never grow old. Like I’ve blogged about before – to me, classic portraiture does not stand for old-fashioned, boring or stale. A portrait by definition just means a photo or painting of someone’s likeness. And so, a classic portrait will always be a genuine and authentic portrayal of the subject. Doesn’t sound old-fashioned to me, just honest and real.

Of course, I can often be inspired by other photographers who are very artistic, or whimsical, or edgy, or use dramatic lighting. Honestly, people like that are true artists in my opinion. They can take a very ordinary scene and make make it appear magical. Their imaginations are astounding and limitless. At the end of the day though, I may occasionally incorporate some of that inspiration, but their style is not my own. I can’t get away from what comes naturally to my eye, or what imagery I’m drawn to.

There is this one black and white picture of my grandparents that was probably taken around 1950. He’s got his arm around her while casually gazing the other way and she’s looking into the camera in mid-laughter. I don’t know where they were, what she was laughing about or what exact year it was, but it doesn’t really matter. It’s truly stunning. It’s hard to put into words why I think it’s so beautiful. Maybe it’s because he’s been gone now for several years and this photograph encapsulates his youth and the memories of when he and my grandmother eloped. Maybe it’s because to me, their generation embodies the nostalgia for American values like integrity, honor, duty and character. It’s beautiful for all of those reasons, but mostly because it was a picture of them. A candid, honest, genuine moment in time that represents that season of their life.

I truly hope that the photos I produce for the clients I serve can represent a timeless illustration of a season, an occasion or a person they dearly loved. That’s the intention of a photograph. It must mean more than the flippant way we share them on social media or the shoe boxes we throw them in. Print and frame your pictures, new and old. Have an annoying amount of them mounted all over your house. We only get a short amount of time on earth with the people we love, so let’s remember all that we can.