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Make a portrait series? It is to approach and make perceptible “the whole of each person, so beautiful, outside as in” (Catherine Bernstein, 2009).
There are three areas of photography that focus on the human being in an essential, full and complete way: the report, the portrait and the nude.
In the portrait and the nude, the human being is from the outset the finality. People often relate the portrait exclusively to the face, differentiating it from the body, whether naked or dressed. The naked body and the portrait are similar: a portrait is often a nude, and a nude perhaps a portrait. The face discovered, isn’t a nude? In our Western society no one masks his face and a body element that by definition is not covered is naked. Our skin, our mouth, our nose, our ears, our neck, our cheeks, our chin, these different parts of our body are delivered every day to the eyes of others, which is not the case in all the countries of the world.
How many times have I been confronted with the refusal to photograph an ear judged “too big” or “loose”, the request to hide “as much as possible a nose too big or too round or too short”, to correct wrinkles and pimples … Concerns about faces that are the same as those on the body.
Portrait, story and puzzle
Each person sees themselves in an exploded way, each piece of the puzzle carrying a snatch of happy or unhappy stories, painful or pleasant, traumatic or rewarding events.
A series of a photographic portrait is like putting together all the pieces of the puzzle of the subject that poses, during a photographic moment, to give one’s perception of humanity in its entirety, far from the exploded and agreed representations of the face and the body. That’s why I almost always work my series portraits of several photographs, such as a story, with a beginning and a tentative ending, waiting for another story. Because nothing is frozen. Each person is in eternal becoming, and this experience of the photographic portrait will be like any experience, but often very intense, the triggering of a new history, a new way of seeing oneself, of being understood.
The humanist portrait
The portrait is a slow journey between the pitfalls of “beauty-portrait” and of the making of an image in which the person perceives himself and wants to be perceived. In both cases, the images are repeated to infinity, without addressing the singularity of the humanity of everyone.
The humanist portrait that I love and proposes the realization to woman, or man, which is rarer, has for path the discovery of the feeling of the other, the person photographed, his envy, his fear to discover a new “me”, once the pictures projected on the screen or the prints arranged on the table. In the words of Sabine Weiss, “What is humanistic photography? A photo with humans? (…) I concentrate on (the subject) and try to capture what he feels: is he happy, unhappy, lost? “.
The portrait, a staging
The portrait is also a staging, in costumes and clothes, far from the body “coat rack”, rid of the textile gangue of clothing that “to a certain extent, is also likely to prevent the development of the person” (Pierre Caumont, « Nus sommes »).
The choice of clothing that will be worn for a portrait series, of costumes of a different era, of clothes bearing signs and visual codes that we do not necessarily belong to, is an essential element of the portrait. Combining disparate costume elements or reinventing fictional characters is another way of putting together the pieces of one’s own puzzle, of reinventing oneself by endorsing other “skins”, other textile envelopes.
The portrait is finally the portrait-reportage. The portrait-reportage is interested in the human in its social state, in its daily life, the step being to let the subject express himself in the intimacy of his social life, at work, at home, in the landscapes of his choice. No inventory of the objects that surround him or intrusion into an intimate space, but the desire to capture the interactions between the person and the space he lives and which gives to his portrait a singular meaning.
Model or subject?
What does the word “subject” mean? The experience of the portrait is one where the subject (who poses) is naked, psychically speaking, and where he delivers something of his interiority which is impressed on the retina of the photographic eye. I prefer the term “subject” (which poses) to that of “model” which raises against remuneration or not. The model suggests an exemplary representation, a portrait to imitate, which goes against each series of portrait whose spirit is the singularity.
The term “model” is not appropriate because it refers to the modeling, the idea of giving shape to an exclusively physical and aesthetic representation of the person, to a conception of the portrait where only the physical aspect would be the finality. On the contrary, the portrait refers to something immaterial that lets the form perceive: the portrait gives to see something other than a body, a look, it makes visible the part of humanity that we leave in the shadow.
In all projects and series of portraits, no model is paid. A portrait can be realized only in collaboration, or by paying the photographer, never for remuneration of the “model”. To pose freely, in other words free of charge, without any other gratification than that of artistic and human experience, is to give oneself, to make an offering of one’s humanity in the eyes of the photographer first, then to that of spectators then “(Pierre Caumont,” Nus sums “).
A series of portraits is the celebration of the body, the face and the spirit together. Better, it’s the celebration of the spirit and the body, from head to toe.