So, is it true? Are only certain people photogenic?
Does this trait exist on some sort of scale? Can anyone “take a good picture?” Like, maybe it’s just a little harder to catch a lot of people’s “good sides?”
Or, is everyone, no matter their height, width, shape, age, or relative “beauty” capable of looking good in photographs?
I firmly believe it’s option #3…that anyone you put in front of my camera can look fantastic…captivating…stunning…etc. Let me explain.
Is it harder for some people than others? Definitely…but not for what most would assume to be the obvious reason; i.e., “beauty.” Beauty truly is, after all, a relative term. Our perceptions of beauty are informed by a lot of different sources. They are ultimately culturally-specific and may change over time…the obvious example being our current Western notion of “beauty.” It differs greatly from, let’s say, the “ideal” that prevailed in Renaissance times…or Victorian times…or the 1980′s…etc. And it is, however unfortunately, largely determined today by our various media…media, for whom the only agenda, is to Sell us stuff that we Don’t Need. This is accomplished through an endless barrage of negative messages, targeted directly at the consumer, designed to convince him or her that he or she is horribly imperfect, has a good reason to be insecure, and will die ugly, penniless, and alone if they don’t buy “x,” “y,” or “z” product to minimize their flaws and somehow make them somewhat attractive.
I’m calling BS!
Enlightened society knows this is a load of crap. Rational, intelligent human beings know that their total worth extends far-beyond body mass, proportion, the color of their skin/hair/teeth…you name it. However, it doesn’t matter HOW smart you are…and this is the tragic part
If you are presented with a falsehood and are told convincingly that it is the truth…over and over and over again…from the moment that you can comprehend the language of Saturday morning cartoons and commercials…you are destined to internalize the message and accept its validity.
And this sad truth is, I believe, at the crux of why so many of us (myself included) HATE having their pictures taken!!! Simply because we’ve been conditioned to believe that we AREN’T the “beautiful people.” And therefor, somehow, we are less-than-worthy of documenting ourselves or celebrating ourselves.
How on Earth does anyone make a living as a portrait photographer? Nobody likes having their picture taken…and when someone finally insists that we be photographed for one reason or another, we have all of this emotional baggage and tension and apprehension and anxiety manifesting itself in front of the camera. It’s a small miracle that we ever have a picture taken of ourselves that we don’t find terrifying to look at…let alone one that we love.
The best portrait photographers aren’t necessarily the ones with the most expensive cameras and lenses and lights…or who know the “secrets” of Photoshop ™ slimming and retouching.
The best portrait photographers are the people who understand what an intensely personal and vulnerable experience having your picture taken is. They are somehow able to help their subjects unpack years of baggage within an hour’s time and, almost magically, connect with their subjects on such an honest and open level. They create Trust. They provide an experience in which their subjects feel valued as people, appreciated for who they are…and most importantly, Safe to be themselves, if only for 1/100th of a second.