Emotions are an important aspect of human activity and often drive our interpersonal relationships as well as our decision making in both obvious and subtle ways. While many artists focus on bringing out the “true person” of a portrait subject, the focus on this project was to bring out the true emotion being expressed by the subject.
In this project, each of my subjects brings a photograph of someone close to him or her and uses that photograph as a jump-off point in telling me a story about that person. The story told, whether happy or sad, is completely up to the sitter. Throughout the story, I take photos with my camera while varying my angle in relation to and the distance from my subjects. I also ask questions regarding the story in order to dig deeper into the relationship between my subject and his or her subject. Using the concept of the “decisive moment,” I capture the image of my subject that best expresses the emotion(s) that underlie the nature of the relationship between the sitter and their own subject.
Much of the emotion that is expressed in formal portrait photography is either directed (think retail portraits) or prompted by the artist, such as Richard Avedon, who would often ask psychologically jarring questions of his subjects in order to elicit a certain type of response. By using the approach I described above, I am able to minimize my role in directing the individual, thus allowing my subject to be more open and honest with their story, which in turn allowed for an honest expression of emotion.