In an effort to curb my incessant need for costume-based character development, I've thrown myself headlong into a photo portrait series where the whole point is just that: visual cues for developing character. For lack of a better name its working title is "character portraits" and every character will have his or her own special secret biography to give wings to the imagination. As someone who's never attempted a super serious approach to photography in the past, I find myself excited by the opportunity to do a proper series! I've been doing a great deal of borrowing from history, fable, and film, and I've based many on the work of a particular painter.
They say every picture tells a story, so you assume that's especially true when there's a human element. When looking at a portrait, your entire knowledge of the subject rests on how he's physically represented in a single frame. So I'd think most portraits are very intentional: The subject, who likely commissioned the portrait, puts his best foot forward to be depicted in a positive light. The artist tries to find a medium between his own style and the desires of the subject. The end result is a combination of who the subject really is, how the photographer/artist sees him, and how that subject wishes to be perceived by posterity. I love this level of deliberateness, and the commissioned portrait strikes me in particular for that intrinsic wealth of intentionality it demonstrates (a modern version of this might be, say, my friend J Trav's Persona series).
The idea for a nuanced, deliberate, storytelling-style portrait series sprang from countless trips to museums and thrift stores. The details in a painting or photograph---a personal possession deemed worthy of remembrance, a little dog on someone's lap, the finger-worn smile of a long-forgotten girlfriend, the posture of an aristocrat preserved in oil---all made me wonder about the identities of these people, and in turn, the lives of those who cherished their images long after they were gone.
One image in particular captured my fancy, a fellow from Atlanta's own High Museum of Art:
Count Vittorio Alfieri, 1794, Oil on Canvas (by Francois Xavier Fabre)
There's something about 'ole Count Vittorio that I really love---I don't know if it's the look of consternation or the seemingly magical ring, but he's one of my very favourite portraits to date.
This series is assisted by the work of many talented individuals: namely, DP Troy Stains, who heads up lighting and proper exposure (we're shooting Hasselblad and YashicaMat images on both chrome and negative). Among the others who have contributed to the portraits thusfar are: Amy Taylor (Ministry of Tiny Hats), Raucous Goods, Suzy B. Designs & Vintage, seamstress Courtney Fort, and many others!