The Rapid Demise of Conceptual PortraitureMonday, December 12, 2016
In the late 70s I asked Vancouver photographer (but an American) James La Bounty what he did. He looked at me (and because he is tall) it seemed his nose was up there in the air when he answered, “I do conceptual portraiture.” I thought he was a superior type out to belittle me. I was completely wrong.
James La Bounty was the first magazine photographer to bring the crooked horizon (called the Dutch Tilt) into popularity.
And if some guy with a heavy DSLR hanging from his or her neck were to ask me what I do I would answer exactly like La Bounty.
In this 21st century I see a decline in original portrait photography that has the stamp of a particular photographer’s style. I see too much point and shoot and very little thinking of the possibilities before clicking.
In the case of author Gail Anderson-Dargatz I used conceptual photography to hide the fact that at the time she was a tad heavy. The Canadian National newspaper The Globe And Mail had hired me to take her portrait for an interview essay by my now friend Christopher Dafoe. Dafoe was the arts reporter for the Globe, a very fine writer who saw what was happening in journalism. A few years later he went back to university and is now a very good lawyer in Vancouver.
The Globe & Mail in those days had stories prepared in such a way that I was given a few days for shooting plus having my 6x7 cm Ektachromes processed and then scanned to send to Toronto by what I sort of understood to be called a cable modem!
I had a friend who had beehives and I thought the idea of using them in my photograph would be just right for the Anderson-Dargatz’s novel called A Recipe for Bees.
I photographed her with b+w film with heavy shadows on one side in a cropped in the camera photograph. I then made an 8x10 print. I went to my friend’s beehives. He suggested we first wear protective clothing. He further suggested we slap some honey on the photograph. I then took the picture with my Mamiya RB-67 loaded with Ektachrome.