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February 7, 2008 5:16 PM   Subscribe

What makes a great portrait?
posted by klangklangston (20 comments total) 19 users marked this as a favorite

 
Thanks for this.

What makes a great portrait?

Unflinching, fearless honesty.

posted by R. Mutt at 5:23 PM on February 7, 2008


Ahhhh!
posted by mrnutty at 5:24 PM on February 7, 2008


When you link to a site that has a brutally damaged face right on top of the page, you'd be kind to include a warning.
posted by Anything at 5:27 PM on February 7, 2008


...you'd be kind to include a warning.

In a post about photographic portraits, I couldn't disagree more.
posted by R. Mutt at 5:33 PM on February 7, 2008


Why is that?
posted by Anything at 5:38 PM on February 7, 2008


I'm one with Anything.
But nice post.
posted by tula at 5:59 PM on February 7, 2008


Excellent article - thank you!
posted by TochterAusElysium at 6:13 PM on February 7, 2008


I'm currently working on a PBS show about portraits. Thanks for pointing this out.
posted by fungible at 6:13 PM on February 7, 2008


A great portrait is just capturing what someone really looks like.

But people don't always look like themselves: they're very practiced at not doing so. The hard part is learning to see it when they do. Then, all you have to do is be standing in the right place, and click.
posted by DaShiv at 6:47 PM on February 7, 2008


"When you link to a site that has a brutally damaged face right on top of the page, you'd be kind to include a warning."

No. Sorry.

"A great portrait is just capturing what someone really looks like.

But people don't always look like themselves: they're very practiced at not doing so. The hard part is learning to see it when they do. Then, all you have to do is be standing in the right place, and click."

Eh... That's a bit over-romanticized for my taste. You're kind of eliding the fundamental judgment of the photographer on what someone "really looks like."
posted by klangklangston at 7:09 PM on February 7, 2008


I like Chris Buck's take best:
A great portrait can have beautiful lighting, a curious location and a pleasing composition, but it’s a sense of vulnerability that really makes a picture exciting for me. Vulnerability and awkwardness are access points for the viewer, and a suggestion of real humanity.
posted by hjo3 at 7:42 PM on February 7, 2008


Masters of Portrait Photography (in my mind):
August Sander

Arnold Newman

Richard Avedon

Diane Arbus

Disfarmer (Mike Meyers)
posted by ericb at 8:37 PM on February 7, 2008


(didn't read article just looked at the pictures response to "what makes a good portrait":)
as long as and only if it's disturbing. if not,you probably failed to capture your subject, ass.
posted by es_de_bah at 9:34 PM on February 7, 2008


Awesome post.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 5:37 AM on February 8, 2008


""When you link to a site that has a brutally damaged face right on top of the page, you'd be kind to include a warning."

No. Sorry."

Um, why yes. It would be kind. It would even kinder to not blow off this comment like that.
posted by sfts2 at 7:16 AM on February 8, 2008


When you link to a site that has a brutally damaged face right on top of the page, you'd be kind to include a warning.
No. Sorry.
Thanks for the response, man. But, you know, many people don't want to stare at human suffering if they don't have to, and not all of them are sheltered little things who must be shown the harsh reality of life. I'm reminded of my mother, who's treated alcoholics and drug addicts for as long as I've been around, and she prefers to not have wrecked bodies and minds shoved in her face for the sake of art and entertainment. Sees enough of that at work, she says. Something similar probably applies to many other people with comparable backgrounds.

Interesting article, though, from my perspective.
posted by Anything at 9:05 AM on February 8, 2008


Again, no. It's not gory, and he's a person. I'm not going to warn you if there are amputees or people with MS either, even if it makes you uncomfortable. Some of those portraits eroticize minors too, but they're part of the portrait canon.

Especially when the whole of your comment is simply about being squicked by one image, rather than engaging with any of the text 0r the rest of the photos.
posted by klangklangston at 9:51 AM on February 8, 2008


Fascination with portraiture crippled by your unwillingness to look at people? Stick to novels? Anyway, here's a picture of my mom. WARNING she's heavyset and in a bathrobe.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 2:46 PM on February 8, 2008


From the pictures on this site, to make a great portrait, stand there and look retarded, get your face bashed up, be oddly proportioned or working class, or somehow involve a deer head. Yeah, great portraits.
posted by Faze at 7:29 PM on February 8, 2008


So, which one of those is the Goebbels shot, Faze? Or Istevan or Boubat's or Cunningham's or Kander's or Ingres' portraits?

Or, from your comments, to snark, you should attempt to make a glib dismissal and reveal that you either didn't read the material or are being an asshole, ideally both.
posted by klangklangston at 7:42 PM on February 8, 2008


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