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Wednesday, 06 December 2023


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In this (fantastic, imho) interview, Andre D Wagner says something somewhat opposite, that it's easier to take pictures of celebrities, that people will like the images because they know the faces: "is it really about the image, or is it about the celebrity?" I think that's the point of what you're writing, of course, but I like the point of view that it's harder to "pick up your camera and make something out of nothing." Obviously Elliott Erwitt could do both well, of course...


"I think it's what I'd recommend to any young person today who wants to be a portraitist."

Maybe it's just the old guy in me, but judging by what occupies much of the internet, many young people think they are portrait photographers and that they are shooting a famous person... themselves.

... and then there's Platon ...


More Platon ... on Netflix (via YouTube) ...


Celebrity photographs are made to sell a product basically. That product is the celebrity. I have a project called The Wise Photo Project, where I photograph older couples, men and women in a formal way, like celebrities. These photographs will last for generations long after the celebrity product value is gone.

I consider our older relatives the celebrities of our families, and they don’t have to be treated with lower-quality portraits just because they’re not known to the world. I often make their portraits on medium format and large format film. Then I print the photograph and put it in a frame I source at local yard sales and gift it to them. There are no proofs to be reviewed, no selections made by the subject, I make the final selection.

I would say this work is the most important work I do, and I have photographed celebrities.

http://thewisephotoproject.com - It even welcomes photographers from around the world to join me, and do the same thing with your elderly citizens.

Mike, you could offer this to folks in your area and the reason for why you want to photograph them is built in. They call you and come to you.

You seem to cross paths with more famous people than most.

[I don't think so. I don't even cross paths with many people, period.

The reason I saw Jackie three times is that I used to take the puddle-jumpers up to Hanover, where Dartmouth is, and she took the puddle-jumpers to Hyannis Port. Both used the Marine Terminal in New York City. Two of the occasions make good stories. I'll try to remember to tell them someday. --Mike]

Mike -- You are correct. When EE was in Austin at the invitation of the now defunct Austin Center for Photograph, he and I stopped by the Austin Museum of Art. Just after we entered, I asked him to stop so I could take his picture. (I think he loved to be photographed as much as he loved photographing.) Anyway, he still had the sticker in his hand... Next thing I knew he popped it onto his forehead and I took the picture. I cannot say that I knew him well or for all that long -- but my reaction was "of course, he put it there rather than not". He was so light and playful.

By the way, I think he carried that fried egg thing around with him for moments like that...

If in the next column you tell us you've met Howard Hughes and seen the Loch Ness Monster, I'm going to believe you have supernatural powers.

I had the privilege of having Elliott Erwitt jury one of my photos into an exhibit at Grand Central Station in New York, as well as exhibits in England and Australia.


So how come I get redacted but not Louis M? Am assuming he, too, was commenting in a negative way on the Kasperczyk portrait?


[Well, as I always say, you can say anything if you word it right. If you'll put yourself in Luka's shoes, you can see how the way you phrased your words might be taken to be insulting. Louis M. didn't directly attack any specific person, he was just talking about portraits of the famous in general, which was the topic of the post after all. --Mike]

Odd question. Apologies in advance. I'm actually wondering on behalf of maybe more than myself here.

Is there any audio/video of you that's available to listen to?

Putting a voice to a face helps when reading that faces words. Sometimes.

Even just a descriptor - is your accent New York, Boston, Texas? I'm guessing Mid West.


Regarding Kenneth Wajda's post in reference to http://thewisephotoproject.com - wow. I was not prepared to be so emotively moved by the photography there.

Incredible work Kenneth. And incredibly important.

One of my favorite used book store finds is a copy of Erwitt's "Personal Exposures" that is inscribed and signed by him.
The inscription is:
"For Lotte Morley,
with thanks for your past (and future) kindness.
Elliott Erwitt
N.Y. 15 Dec 88"

If anyone knows who Lotte Morley is, I would love to know!

On rare occasions, people observing me wearing and using a couple of cameras, one with a large lens, rather than a 'phone ask "What kind of photography do you do?"

My answer is "I don't do portraits."

Stan B. said . . . the problem with such portraits is the difficulty of knowing if you were reacting to the celebrity, or the quality of the portrait itself.

I go further. To me, portraits are about at least two things:

The interaction between the subject's self image and the gaze of the external world.

The interaction between some mixture of assumed persona and internal self, on the part of both parties with each other.

All of this stuff is interesting, although apparently less so to me than the average, but more about relationship than capture of the world in it's state unaffected by the process of being photographed.

So, I lie a little. I do do portraits, but only candids. Some of them are favorites, and, IMHO, great portraits. \;~)>

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