Flickr Favourites: Portraiture
This post contains large images that may compromise slower internet connections.
One of things I enjoy doing most on Flickr is look through other photostreams and select which photographs are my favourites. I have a tendency I check out the favourite photographs of the artists that I have noted.
Lately, I have been marking portraits as favourites after realising my growing fascination with them. This is just conjecture, but there is something about landscape or nature shots that seem as though the subject itself has done most of the work in providing the basic aesthetics, leaving the photographer to do the remaining tweaking: composing the shot, highlighting what aspects of the subject should be highlighted or muted, and the like. But when it comes to portraiture, there seems to be an effort in communicating a certain message from both the photographer and the subject. The subject may or may not be conveying a message from their expression, and the photographer directs and/or captures the entire thing. I am awed by how a single portrait not only captures the beauty and essence of its physical subject, but also the probable nuances behind their outward portrayals.
My Favourite Portraits on Flickr
I personally don’t think I have enough experience to make any strong convictions in interpreting these portraits. I’d like to believe that there is a degree of subjectivity behind how a viewer responds to a photograph. However, kindly allow me to note my initial reactions and thoughts upon seeing the following examples of my favourite portraits on Flickr:
Young talent Alexis Mire took this self portrait as homage to her childhood obsession with murky bath water. She was also inspired by controversial portrait photographer Anne Leibovitz, yet another photographer who I think has mastered the idea of pulling a reaction from viewers. I have enjoyed Mire’s photographs for some time, particularly her portraits, because her ideas for photographs seem to come from virtually anywhere and everywhere, with props that come from anything and everything. I also had a thing for murky bath water when I was much younger, and admit wasting many bars of soap in order to feed that fascination.
Above is a portrait of Carrè Callaway, the frontwoman of the band Queen Kwong. The photograph is taken by self-proclaimed “life saver” Lou O’Bedlam. What initially struck me about this photograph is her beauty, the lighting, and the resulting pastel colours that peek from various corners. Then I read one of O’Bedlam’s commentaries of one of Callaway’s other shots, notably the part in which some have said Callaway looks a little sad in most of her photographs.
Upon surface impression, I think I see that assertion manifest in her photographs. However, upon letting the information sink in, there seems to be a lot of mystery in her emotions. Hidden secrets, desires, and thoughts that may or may not be divulged to the viewer. Sometimes the notion of mystery bothers people, especially those who have the need to make judgments that fit their frame of reality. Callaway’s enigmatic expressions are a reminder that not everything can be simplified and still remain to its true form, and that boxing things up can have serious repercussions.
The above and bottom two are portraits that I wished came in very large resolutions, and I couldn’t help but notice the commonality of juxtaposing elements in the above two photographs.
The upper left portrait is that of a textile worker living in Uttar Pradesh, India, and was taken by Swedish photographer Johannes Jansson. I was struck by the brilliance of her yellow sari juxtaposing the grey background and her black hair. Her hypnotising eyes, serene expression, and the gentle folds of her garments that create the illusion of movement almost make her look like a goddess disguised as a mortal being.
The upper right photograph of the red-haired girl in a green hammock is from Brooklyn-based photographer Elizabeth Weinberg. It was something I stumbled upon a couple years ago, around the time when I started to take photography a little bit more seriously. The overall gentle beauty shown in the subject’s eyes and her relaxed posture in the shot contrasts the distress of the background. The photograph’s set-up left me momentarily speechless. It turns out this photo was featured in the August 2008 issue of NYLON Magazine.
These last two photos capture family, and intimacy is always a given.
The above left photograph of Montrèal resident and photographer Glen Pepin‘s grandfather captures the kindness in his eyes. A part of me envied Pepin a little, because before my grandfathers passed away, I’ve wanted to take portraits of them. My matrilineal grandfather had eyes that were almost the same colours as him above.
Yet another young talent Maria McGinley and her brother Tim took a portrait as a present to their mother. In the above right photograph, their faces are both so expressive, even though Maria is not looking directly at the camera.
All Art is a Self Portrait
Then it struck me.
It is said all art is a self portrait, and of course the statement stands for itself in the art of self portraits. But perhaps the reason why viewers react to some photographs over others is that besides the innate responses that come from strong initial impressions, it can betray the fact that viewers can see aspects of themselves in those captures.
I have revealed how a few of these photographs have elements that I feel reflect with my own life, but the finer details on how I see me in all of them will remain my personal secret.
What About You?
Do you believe that we react to certain forms of art because we see aspects of ourselves in them? Also, feel free to share some of your favourite portraits and other photographs in the comments.
(All photos are credited to their respective artists. Click on any image to view it on Flickr.)