A Photographic RelationshipTuesday, December 15, 2009
I tell my photography class students that they must cultivate a photographic relationship with the people they photograph. I don’t like to use the term model and so opt for the less deprecatory subject. Paradoxically, while model brings to mind a human being that we treat as an object (if we are rude and do not know any better) a subject (which could be an animal or even a theme or thing) seems to be more human. For me when I call my models subjects I want to put forward the idea that a human being stands or sits in front of me and there is a mutual interaction which I hope is a pleasant or at least a tolerable one.
The photographic relationship involves taking pictures more than once. At Focal Point I have an average of 8 or 9 students per class and when we have a shooting day (3 hours) we have two subjects in two adjoining studios. My students shoot like mad trying to get everything they can in those three hours. They must face having a good idea that is then copied by a fellow student that is watching. Sometimes the copy is better than the original. I tell them this is the way it is (to learn under adversity) until they get enough nerve to find a subject they find interesting and then dedicate multiple private sessions with them in which that photographic relationship grows to the point that in some cases verbal communication is not necessary.
I photographed Tarren for something like 25 years until she tired of it. But I have Yuliya and the Thursday girl, Jo-Ann who usually poses for me on Thursdays about four times a year. Our sessions will have to shift to my living room now that my studio is no more. I enjoy looking at the big fat files that are dated for each session so I can observe the progression of change and age.
By the above standards, one of the best subjects I have ever had is my 12 year-old granddaughter Rebecca. I have been giving a lot of thought to the nature of my pictures as she gets older and I will probably elaborate on this later on in the week or month.
More often than not she faces my camera cheerfully after some initial protestation. Here you see her as I photographed her last Halloween in my dining room with Abraham’s Mexican skeleton. This is one of those unintended double exposures or perhaps the long shutter caught her eye movement. Rebecca looks spooky. Spooky in this day and age is a safe mode. And I wonder just why.
At one time I am sure some ultra conservative Catholic Spaniard from my grandmother’s side of the family would have protested at the religious travesty of the theme. My grandmother would have smiled and simply said, “Nobody understands artists. Alex and I are both artists.” She would have winked a conspiratorial eye at me and I would have known that everything was all right.