This week I was given an assignment in my photography class. My assignment was to shoot a role of film, shooting twelve pictures of someone close to me, twelve of someone I didn’t know very well, and twelve of random people. While I came to the frustrating realization that half of my film didn’t come out, which I can only accredit to some bizarre occurrence that must have gone on with my camera, the process of taking my portraits this week wasn’t what I expected.
The photos I took of the person who I was close and familiar with turned out so comfortably. At first, however, it was more uncomfortable than any of them. The person was so used to being with me, without my camera, that having this tool that could closely focus in on them must have been disconcerting, or at least that was what I got from the beginning expressions. But, after about three takes, they instantly relaxed and I got material that was very genuine, full of patience and understanding.
My second set, the photos of someone I was not quite as used to being around by myself began very comfortably and almost immediately turned into an awkward situation. I couldn’t even take all twelve photographs. I think that the key to honest portraiture is trust, at least for close-ups. In Alec Soth’s case, some of his portraits that didn’t contain trust were more interesting, which is impressive, but overall if the person is uncomfortable in front of your camera, things are going to turn out stilted and unworthy of film.
The photos I took more miscellaneously were my favorites. I loved the expressions and uncertainty of the people I photographed only once or twice. Either shocked or bored, there was truth in each one and they definitely turned out most interesting.