The portrait is an erotic operation that puts the photographer’s interiority in close contact with that of his subject.
The first impact with the subject is often cold: the it is obviously embarrassed and fears the session. It places itself in front of the photographer in a condition of submission. It is very important to subvert this state of affairs and create an atmosphere that generates the relationship of equality, like in every sincere relationship. The modalities of this subversion are inexplicable since they vary from subject to subject; what is certain is that for the photographer the session has already begun and much of his result will depend on this work. This is an essential operation for the relaxation of the subject and reunion with himself.
The greater the success of this delicate passage, the greater the possibility of finding what Nadar called “intimate similarity”.
In order to avoid stiffening the subject again and thus making the previous phase of the work useless, it is necessary to introduce the subject to a greater effort than the previous phase and to make it clear that this effort is two-way.
A relationship of mutual respect is thus established, where the subject understands that he is not under examination, but that he must collaborate in the operation-portrait.
This is where the magic moment takes place.
It is the phase of intensity and silence, of held breaths, of alienating light that isolates from the surrounding reality.
It is the moment when mutual gazes penetrate and rest on each other. It is the moment in which the psychic exchange takes place; it is the moment during which photographer and subject become one for an imprecise cause.
“If you are interested in the human being, you have to take an interest in their faces. I always try to catch the light in the eyes of the actors, because I feel that the eyes are the mirror of the soul. Some cinematographers dislike seeing reflections in the eyes. But there are always reflections in the eyes; some just don’t think about it. I think if I get that reflection, you can see the human being thinking. There is a presence there. ” (Sven Nykvist)
There was something true (and not so esoteric) in what Balzac feared, refusing to pose so as not to be robbed of his soul.
When the portrait is made at a certain level, the psychic interaction is so high that the subject really puts himself on the line and this deserves a certain respect and delicacy on the part of the photographer. It would be really sneaky to rob the subject of these personal intimate moments of him.
If the photographer does not love his subject, it will necessarily become his object. Then we leave what is the portrait-photography by entering the field of mere object reproduction.
At the base there is a good skeleton, that is: a good, precise, clean cut, excellent focus and good depth of field.
Given these non-obvious premises, the light acts according to firmly desired paths (in the studio) or random (externally), but that in both cases it carries out singular paths that destroy and redesign the figure.
That the figure itself is only the pretext, the scaffolding (once again) on which to build directly with lights and shadows. Going back to the last writing on “Metaphysical Photography”, it is not a question of destroying existing ones through a sterile abstractionism made up of forms designed to please the equally sterile contemporary eye accustomed to the concept of “image as a piece of furniture”; but to create that situation that, when reading the image, I ultimately defined “tension between existing ones”.