I’ve posted this photo here before:
It’s of my kids, from last summer – and it’s actually one of my favorite portraits of them. I’m intrigued by the way it captures something essential about each of them, despite the fact that you can’t see their faces.
Take my son (who loves to climb anything and everything.) He is of course standing on the rail (because why stand on the ground when there’s something to hoist yourself up on?) And he’s wearing these floppy shorts and a pair of sandals (a “cool boy” in fashion, he’s not! He likes pajama-level comfort, or to be “fancy” in shirts and ties. He doesn’t have much interest in or patience for much in between.) This shot of him (and I didn’t plan it out at all) captures all of that. It’s who he is, at this moment in time.
His sister’s favorite color is pink – as might be guessed by her outfit here. She’s not exactly a “girly girl”; she loves to be outside in nature, exploring, getting dirty, and she has pet worms and things like that. But she likes “pretty.” She’ll roll up her pink leggings rather than not wear them. And her sparkly shoes (with purple trim, no less) were her favorites until just recently.
The more I get into photography, the more attracted I find I am to portraiture. And I’m realizing, more and more as I go on, that that includes non-traditional portraits as well. I’m interested, I guess, in the little, subtle things that capture a person.
Apparently that means feet as well! As seen in this one of my parents:
I’m not saying this is a beautiful work of art or something. I think my brothers maybe might like it (maybe!) for the same reasons I do – but I rather doubt it would have any resonance or relevance or even INTEREST for anybody else. Even my parents would probably not much grasp what I like about it – because they don’t look at themselves in the way I (or my brothers, as their kids) do.
I took this in their house last March one day when I was bored and happened to have my camera in reach. They were standing in their kitchen, discussing their puppy (whose footprints, you can see if you look closely, are on the floor in front of them.) They weren’t posing. I don’t even know if they even really noticed that I took this shot.
I didn’t expect it to be something I kept; I was just messing around. But I have kept it because, in a strange way, it really captures them.
My mom has about a million pairs of slippers that look like the pair in this shot – and jeans that fit her ankles like these do. My dad too pretty much always wears sneakers like the white ones here, and jeans like this.
And the thing is, I know what their feet look like – without really knowing that I know it, if you know what I mean. It’s that my mom and dad’s feet and the way they wear their clothes and even the way they’re standing – these are just extremely familiar visuals to me. So familiar and so very mundane that you’d never consider capturing them for posterity.
I don’t really think of my interest in photography as being particularly documentary in nature. What draws me, rather, is more how (or if) I can capture what I feel. But even so, I’m recognizing that I’m drawn to document these kinds of small moments.
So maybe it’s actually too simple to say that I want to capture “the way things feel.” Maybe it’s really more about capturing things as I see them…the things I notice that maybe other people wouldn’t.
For whatever that’s worth.
Here’s another shot of my parents that plays into this idea:
I like this one because it says something about who they are and how they exist in space, in spite of (and I think maybe even because of) the fact that you can’t see their faces. My mom’s feet have a lot of personality, even as she lays in bed reading a book…but that’s who she is. The fact that my dad’s long legs are spryly pulled up to support his crossword book (and the fact that he’s wearing flannel pj bottoms in the middle of summer!) – that’s so very HIM.
The pictures I’ve taken like these have all occurred randomly…by accident. Usually propelled by a moment of boredom.
I’m starting to get interested now in what I’ll find if I start to intentionally capture moments like these – if I seek them.
Here’s another example – this one of the power of unexpected angles.
I took some shots of my dog from above and from eye level when she was sitting up. They were okay. But then she put her head on the floor and wasn’t inclined to get up again. (Being a photography model isn’t her favorite pastime…particularly this close to dinner!)
Rather than force the issue, I instead held the camera down to her level – and what I got was something that really captured the mood of the moment, and also the rapport we had at that moment (the rapport of a dog wishing I’d just move the clock ahead about half an hour and feed her! She was pretty clued in to me. Her eyes are fixed on my face!)
I like this one. It really shows who she is.
Here’s another. This one is actually my favorite flower-petal shot of the springtime:
And the funny thing is, I didn’t expect it to be worth anything at all. I swear, I tried a million different ways to capture how beautiful these flower petals were. They were all over the sidewalks around the apartment – and I loved them! But no shot I took pleased me.
And then I just randomly took this one. I was walking back from the school bus stop with my kids and they were running around being silly. I had the camera with me, and so I snapped a picture of my feet while I was waiting for them…for no other reason than that I was looking for something to do while they ran off some energy.
Not that this is so amazing a shot or something; I know that. But, for me, it captures how beautiful the petals were, and how they transformed the area, in a way that more ambitious shots didn’t.
And I don’t know what made the difference exactly. The contrast of the sidewalk and the green grass? The fact that my feet were in it…which highlighted what I was walking through every day? I don’t know.
Maybe there were more beautiful shots I took, documentary-wise, of the petals themselves. But this was far and away the best as far as how they made me feel.
This last photo is from about a year-and-a-half ago. I just came upon it again when I was organizing photos recently. (It’s actually what made me think of writing this post.)
It’s of me and my daughter and our dog on a random afternoon:
I always liked this one because it’s not posed. My camera just happened to be in reach while we were petting the dog one afternoon, and so I just grabbed it and aimed it at us. But I love the way my daughter looks. I love the way she’s placed her hands. And you can really only see my dog’s eye…but her contentment just radiates.
I wouldn’t have caught the moment as well if they’d been focused on the camera.
I really like these odd-angle, no-face kinds of portraits.
I of course do really love more traditional portraits too. I love to look into somebody’s eyes, for example, and try to see deeper into who they are and what they feel. And I love to capture the way somebody expresses themselves in fashion (or hides themselves.)
But these other types of portraits…these are really interesting me.