i love/hate portraits
In a time of fast shrinking staffs and even faster shrinking budgets, the portrait is threatening to become the photographic staple of the newspaper business.
Documentary photography is expensive.
To do a story right, a photographer needs to spend a huge chunk of time with their photo subject. To get telling moments, one can’t show up at 4pm and be out the door at 4:15pm.
For great photojournalism, a commitment must be made by the photographer, the subject and more importantly the newspaper.
I am at my happiest as a staff photographer when I am able to sink my teeth into a long-term project.
But why then do I love shooting portraits, so much?
My recent portrait session with Jim Lasko, Chicago’s first artist-in-residence, is a good example. In order to allow Jim to get to his son’s baseball game, we did a quick shoot in Millennium Park. In just 8 minutes, I was able to get five images that I thought were quite successful and I was totally thrilled with the shoot.
If I had to do documentary-style story in 8 minutes, I would be stunned if I could get anything that wouldn’t make me throw up.
I have gone through stretches lately where I have wanted to stop everyone I see and make their portrait. But no smiling, of course. We all know that smiling ruins a portrait. Right?
If you go back to some of my vacation portraits, I had my kids trained not to smile when I took their photo. It was fabulous. But, I digress.
Maybe it’s because a well-executed portrait can accomplish the same thing that 100 hours of documentary work can, reveal a person’s true character.
I hate that.
©2009 Chicago Tribune/ Scott Strazzante