I began doing Google searches on the terms ‘portrait’ and ‘portrait photography’ in hopes of finding quotations from masters that would shed light on the mysterious sublimation that seems to occur when all the planets align and something truly incredible is revealed as a result of an equation in which one person permits another person to see them, and then memorialize them in what we call a photograph.
There aren’t many reflections that I could find that spoke to me of what I feel both during the session and afterward, as what appears to be the person is revealed. So I decided to write my own reflections since I am, after all, a writer. A writer is a person who commits to memorializing feelings and observations in words, and then makes the further leap of sharing them with others. So here goes.
If my being, my presence, shares physical space in proximity to another person, and that person opens, to reveal a version of themselves that is unguarded, unmasked and, in a spirit of willingness, trusts that I will honor him/her in my art, the result is, often, a startling beauty that belies form speaks in a language that transcends words.
What happens is that together we make a wordless pact that is similar to an embrace or even a kiss. Two souls clasp in a handshake-like gesture of love. But what if we just did this anyway? What if we dispensed with the pretense of cameras or art and made the decision to love every second all the time? That is not as crazy as it sounds. It’s actually the sanest response I can make to what’s going on around us.
People like Donald Trump and Orlando shooter Omar Mateen react out of fear. Radical, hardcore love does not create bigots and killers. Men don’t know how to be men because we lack a sensible working definition of what a man even is. We’re raising boys under the old codes. Conquer, control, kill. We’re telling them that in this world it is not safe to love, or be loved.
There is a solution to this. These problems. All of them. And it has nothing to do with gun control. Hamilton creator Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Tony acceptance sonnet concludes with the answer:
“We rise and fall and light from dying embers, remembrances that hope and love last longer
And love is love is love is love is love is love is love is love cannot be killed or swept aside.”
My photographs succeed when they are driven by love. The world will change and our collective nightmares will end when it is driven not by the fiction of money, but the everlasting truth of love.