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 well-known shooters of that era might photograph an identical female subject. He then posits a theory that their “differences in seeing would, of course, reflect in their work.” He then goes on to eviscerate each of their hypothetical images as “sterile,” “dull,” “unimaginative,” “stereotypical and rather cold.” Yikes! My friend Rick Sammon has a different and much 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.”

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

After reading that particular section of Feininger’s book,  and thinking about Avedon’s and Sammon’s concepts while in bed one night  instead of sleeping I was 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 all of this was fresh in my mind this morning, hence this post:

The image illustrating today’s post is of my former 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 last shoot together, say about me? I dunno but wish I did.

How I made this shot: I photographed Erin in my home studio using a Paul C. Buff DigiBee with a Plume Wafer softbox placed at camera right, an Alien Bee with an 18-inch Omni reflector (with diffusion sock) at camera left and another Digibee with the 48-inch Dynalite Quad Square black/silver umbrella in the back of my studio. Camera was a Panasonic Lumix GH4 with Lumix G Vario 14-45mm f/3.5-5.6 lens (at 45mm) with an exposure of 1/125 sec at f/100 and ISO 200. The above image is a classic Joe Farace-style studio shot where the subject is placed in a three-quarter pose and looks directly at the camera and also the viewer.

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> Let me know you opinions by clicking on the Contact tab.

PS. There’s an old expression in the automotive world that “You are what you drive” and I think that’s 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 he’s going to need it as you will discover in Wednesday’s post.

Feininger’s book is available used from Amazon starting at less than ten bucks. For another approach to creative inspiration, pick up Rick Sammon’s book Creative Visualization for Photographers from Amazon for $34.13 with used copies starting at $9.57 as I write this. For some reason, a Kindle copy is $31.16 .