You Are Who You Photograph?

Today’s Post by Joe Farace

In Andreas Feininger’s 1973 landmark book, Photographic Seeing, there’s a section called “The Different Forms of Seeing” where he discusses how four different and well-known shooters might photograph an identical female subject. He then posits a theory that their “differences in seeing would, of course, reflect in their work.” Then he goes on to eviscerate each of their hypothetical images as “sterile,” “dull,” “unimaginative,” “stereotypical and rather cold.” Yikes!

My friend Rick Sammon has a slightly different and certainly friendlier theory about seeing and puts it this way: “The camera looks both ways” and “that in picturing the subject, you are also picturing a part of yourself.” After reading that particular section of Feininger’s book, Rick’s concept came to mind as I lie in bed one night (instead of sleeping) thinking about what my portraits of woman say about me. I don’t want to bother you with all of the neo-Freudian ideas that ran through my brain but that concept was fresh in my mind this morning. Hence this post.

Here’s yet another theory: Richard Avedon once said,“ My portraits are more about me than they are about the people I photograph.” What I think he means is that he likes to control as much of the environment and maybe the subject while creating a portrait that reflects his image of them, not how the subject sees themselves. And in maybe this same way, some of that may apply to my studio work as well. Or perhaps it’s just a form of my OCD and maybe all/some/many photographers have this affliction because they want to reorder the world into how they imagine it should be.

The image illustrating today’s post is of my new muse, Erin Valakari and during the past few months I’ve featured many photographs of this talented model on this blog. So, what does this image, which was made during our very first shoot together, say about me? I dunno?

So here’s a question for you: Do you think you are who you photograph? Or do you think this is just a cockamamie idea to start with? I’ll collect responses for a future blog post.

PS. There’s an old expression in the automotive world that goes, “You are what you drive” and I think that’s actually true for some people, such as enthusiasts to whom a car is more than a transportation module. I extrapolated that into a post for my car photography website called “You are what you shoot” and I think there’s some truth in that as well.

If you enjoyed today’s blog post and would like to buy Joe a cup of Earl Grey tea ($2.50), click here. And if you do, thank so very much.

If you’re not one of those photographers who think the 1970’s was Jurassic times, Feininger’s book is available used from Amazon from $5.78 as I write this. For another approach to creative inspiration, pick up a copy my friend Rick Sammon’s book Creative Visualization for Photographers, which is available from Amazon for $35.06 new or $16.99 used, as I write this.