This past year I shot a bunch of weddings for our dear friends’ company, Weddings By Two. After a few years of not photographing weddings (and with Kate's encouragement), I felt ready to do it again with a new perspective and more of a focus on portraits. I really did not have a plan in mind other than that I wanted to make pictures I was happy with and that were compelling to me. Two things happened: I started having fun shooting and I unknowingly started making diptychs of the couples. These simple, straightforward portraits ended up being some of my favorite pictures I have made in the last two or three years. So over the next couple weeks (mixed in with what is happening food-wise), we will do a few posts showing some of these portraits. For this first post, I am starting with a photograph I took just last week of a lovely couple I found at a thrift shop. These paintings made me have an ah ha moment. I realized that old paintings like this were in the back of my head while making all these wedding portraits. In fact, for years I have wanted to take poses from well-known paintings and recreate them in photographs. In a way, not consciously at the time, I did that. (Life never works out quite as planned.)
Casting back even further into my cloudy memory, I now remember quite distinctly being at the Frick in New York, in the room with four James Abbott McNeill Whistler paintings. There are two dark and moody ones, one being Arrangement in Black and Gold, Comte Robert de Montesquiou-Fezensac and two very light and bright ones, including Harmony in Pink and Grey (Portrait of Lady Meux) . The contrast between them creates a wonderful tension. Their gaze, the blending of the figure and the background, his super-light, painterly touch that (especially in the black painting) verges on and literally influences the minimalist movement in painting that was to come... I love everything about them.
And here is yet another layer to love about these paintings: Robert de Montesquiou-Fezensac, the subject of Arrangement in Black and Gold is believed to be the man upon whom Oscar Wilde based the novel The Picture of Dorian Gray. And that is just the thing about a portrait—it holds the subject in time, in a moment. Hopefully, it is a lovely moment that has equal parts beauty, intensity, meaning and longevity. I can't claim all my portraits capture this or that I even try to capture it in all of them. But when I do, it makes me happy to be making pictures.
Take a look, let us know what you think.
Here are the portraits of the lovely couple at the thrift shop juxtaposed with portraits I made of Eric and Julie.