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Friday, 27 March 2015


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I think it is safe to say Mike, that most photographers like their own work best. That is partly because they do work to their own taste and partly that it is like their children, a piece of them.

Like the bottom image, love the top image, more?

Mike, you are so right to be your own favorite portraitist. It is not ego, its what you like (not what you are like) I am my favorite portraitist of my grandchildren. But I do like David Bailey!

Rather than the usual suspects, here's some real worthwhiles, not so well known:

Jacques Sonck
Christophe Debon
Jonathan Auch
Russel Frederick
Dmitri Kasterine
Steven Hirsch
Robert Kalman
Jim Mortram
Roderick Henderson
Judith Jay Ross
Jean Francois Joly
Stephen Dupont
Michal Chelbin
Sarah Stolfe


I always liked this one I took of Margaret Holloway in New Haven Connecticut. She is know as The Shakespeare Lady. You can read about her here: www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-chat/1482639/posts

Avery interesting story.

I must say I am more in the formal portrait category and enjoy the likes of Yousef Karsh, or Irving Penn. Casual shots are nice, but don't evoke the sense of occasion I like in portraits.

This certainly doesn't hold for a formal portrait, but it wonderfully shows a typical posture of my twin daughters at pre-teen age:

Paul Strand.

Used an old OM 50 1.4 for this one (on a 4/3 Oly). My best portraits are usually family shots, and usually candids. Here my daughter concentrates on a book of Manga (or Banga) while I managed to get one good shot out of maybe six or seven attempts.

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I'm not a portraitist, so for me this is a little like recording one good song on a guitar but likely not being able to play it again. But of course there's a big element to that for all us amateurs out here plucking away.

Like you, Mike, my favorite portraits are the ones I've made of people I've connected with and photographed. Does that make me my favorite portraitist?

I'm not sure. I love Bobby Grossman's work, mostly because he photographed my earliest music idols: Lou Reed, Debbie Harry, Talking Heads, Patti Smith, Robert Quine, etc... But it's a different kind of love than I have with my own portraits. Whereas my work is all about memories, Bobby's work is all about a window into a world that I couldn't experience directly, but knew through records and interviews and Bobby's photographs.

There's a deep emotional connection to both sets of photographs, but with Bobby's work, the photographs have to stand on their own.

So, I think I'd have to say that I've made my favorite portraits, but Bobby Grossman is my favorite portraitist.

And now, a few of my favorite portraits, along with a Bobby Grossman print in my living room:

Photo Of Lou Reed And Robert Quine By Bobby Grossman February 12, 2015
Photo Of Lou Reed And Robert Quine By Bobby Grossman February 12, 2015

Dad, November, 2009
Dad, November, 2009

Dan in the Studio, August 26, 2012
Dan in the Studio, August 26, 2012

Love good portraits! My results are somewhat variable, strangely :-). I have some very nice casual portraits going back almost to the beginning of my photo "career" (I think my first paid gig was to do at-home portraits of my 9th grade english teacher and her husband).

I think my favorite portraitist might be Lotte Meitner-Graf. I'm fortunate to have portraits of my father, his parents, and one of his siblings by her (my grandmother found her Old Bond Street studio in London). No shots of Richard Dyer-Bennet by her sadly. Her archive is getting digitized and a bit is visible at http://lottemeitnergraf.com but the biggest variety of examples seems to be at http://www.art.com/gallery/id--a773120/lotte-meitner-graf-posters.htm

Here's my father:

I recognize these two photos from you review of the Contax Aria, which might be my favorite film camera I ever owned. It was just the right one for me, though I've certainly owned 'better' ones.

Bill Brandt and Sakiko Nomura are my favorite portraitists.

Brandt's "portrait" portraits are quite nice, but his nudes strike me as being some of the most beautiful people-pictures ever made. Stark. Strange. Unreal. Portraits of tone and line and body, rather than people.

Sakiko Nomura's color work on 8mm film (as in the amazingly gorgeous book Night Flight) is the polar opposite of Brandt. Grainy, soft, blurry, and a hedonistic revel in color and gloom. People become shadow-cloaked smears of orange and pink, or strangely abstracted patches of darkness and color. Wonderful, beautiful, fantastical stuff, particularly if you're only familiar with her rather pedestrian black and white work.

Pairing Bill Brand's Nudes: A New Perspective with Sakiko Nomura's Night Flight makes for a very satisfying visual experience. They're perfect complements.

I'm not much of a portraitist myself. I'm too wrapped up in my own peculiarities to consider what makes a portrait any different from an insect photo or a nocturnal landscape. I take pictures of people I know, and I like to think I do it well (though idiosyncratically--I would never try to compose or blur the table in the first picture out, for instance), but I don't have much luck with people I don't know.

Mike, bite your tongue, Using the entire room as a soft box is so anti-gearist. And it will also cut-down on your online sales 8-)

I don't do portraits, but this is technique works well for shooting large products. If the room has a large door you can put the subject in another room, for a great North-Light look.

I find it amazing, that with all the online-lighting-gurus, this is the first mention of this simple, but elegant, technique I've seen. Jus' sayin'.

My favourite portraitists hands down are Karsh, Hurrell and Halsman. Together they cover everything that drives me to shoot portraits - Karsh is classic elegance, Hurrell is Hollywood's glamour and Halsman is the slightly crazy spark of creativity.
If I were to pick my favourite portraits it would be the iconic portait of Audrey Hepburn in turtleneck by Karsh - this one:

for its elegant form and impeccable lighting

and the multiexposure/composite shot of Clint Eastwood as Harry Callahan by Halsman - this one:
for the perfect embodiment of Dirty Harry and his "Do you feel lucky" attitude.

I know having the most renowned artists as favourites is kinda boring, but I can't really help it - after all, they're the most renowned not without reason...

Sally Mann is hands down my favourite portrait artist.

I would not call myself a portraitist. But even a broken clock is right twice a day.

My friend and fellow Olympus shooter, Mike Gordon:

Mike also used the Olympus 45/1.8 to catch me:

As I'd heard, that lens is excellent for portraits.

Both taken with the Zeiss 85 f2.8 if memory serves?

My loved ones usually aren't all that keen to have their picture taken but a good excuse is "I've just bought this camera / lens and I want to try it out, can I please take your picture?"

This has often worked and some of my favourite portraits are amongst the first shots I've taken with new kit.

Available light and casual pose is my style.

I love the style...natural!

Did you shoot these in the film days? What camera, film and lens did you prefer?

Please post more, they're very good.

Hard to pick a favourite, but I think Arnold Newman's portrait of Igor Stravinsky, 1946, would have to be it. Since I first saw this photo in the early 1970s I've never been able to forget it
http://arnoldnewman.com/content/portraits-0 (image 33)

Jane Bown.

I love to shoot portraits. It's the most challenging, and partly for that reason the most rewarding, of all the things I shoot.

But many of my favorite portraits are by Alec Soth. http://bit.ly/1yl3XhA

Just a few examples:


Back in the day, early 50's, my mother worked in the darkroom for a photographer in Oshkosh who did studio and wedding photography.

One day she brought me to work to show off her first born son and the owner Joe thought I was so cute that he used me for a model for his advertising and portfolio. I was only about three at the time.

For highly dramatic portraits, its hard to beat Karsh. For "real world" portraits, no real favorite.

Might sound obvious, but Arnold Newman, Edward Steichen, August Sander. They aren't in the canon for no reason.

Back in the film days I did a lot of portrait work. This "Yamica Boy" was one of my favorites. Available light, Tri-X, Pentax 6x7 with 135mm lens.

Dan Winter's middle years were pretty great ... . .


Portrait using strobes.

Edward Steichen is the most interesting portraitist of all from what I've seen. His lighting is genius. The style of those shots is exquisite. But, yes I do like Jane Bown at the opposite end of the style range. And many of Cartier-Bresson's portraits are memorable.

[M]y favorite portraitist is me. Me too.

A 'head-and-shoulder' portrait of a female yellow-vented bulbul, perched outside our window.

Not me!

Here's one of my wife and daughter taken in 1983, with a Pentax SV and Super-takumar 55mm, on Kodakchrome. Diffuse light from a window was used.

Although some portraits are among my favorite images, as well as some portraitists, portraiture is oddly one of my least favorite forms of photography (just barely a click above scenic landscapes). I'd rather lick a razor blade lollipop than shoot a portrait.

Who doesn't like portraits? They are probably one of the two pillars of amateur photography, the other being landscapes.

My favourite portrait, and my most visited shot in Flickr by an order of magnitude, is this :

As for other photographers' work: my favourite portraits are probably anyone by Kirk Tuck with Renee in it. That lady is more than photogenic!

Like you, Mike, I'm going to say that I am my own favorite portraitist. And I don't think there's anything egocentric about it. It's just the simple fact that the resulting portraits are the end product of a collaboration between my subjects and myself. That personal aspect naturally makes me inclined to favor my own work. Take this shot of my Grandma, for instance:


My grandmother is notorious for disliking having her picture taken. Results usually show that. I was thrilled that I was able to get this photo of her when I was home for Christmas two years ago. I'm not a professional and I don't even shoot a lot of portraits. Nevertheless, if I had to pick a favorite portrait, this probably gets the nod just because I knew what went into to it and it makes me happy every time I see it.


For me, I love portraits that capture a brief expression of who they are. A brief time where the smile isn't forced, the pose isn't perfect. But you capture a feeling, a mood.

This pic is of my son - distracted by his little brothers, annoyed by the scar on his nose, talking about his deceased mother. I have many pictures of him smiling - but this photo, this simple shot, captures what lies buried beneath.

I want to capture portraits of people as they are, not who they want to be.

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