When capturing a portrait, the role between the photographer and the subject can vary. In some cases, it could be a relationship of strict documentation, one where the subject dictates the outcome of the photo. Other times the relationship can be one of artistic vision, using the subject in a prop-like way, and many times, the relationship is a combination of both documentation and artistic vision. In this relationship between photographer and subject, both must be in control in some way. After reading about both Avedon and Burke, I saw that the two photographers had different ideas of what the relationship between photographer and subject should be. For example, Avedon seemed to give the subject more control, choosing to control the frame and composition of the photos rather than the subject. Burke’s work contrasted Avedon’s idea of this relationship through his control of the subject, choosing to portray the subject in a certain light and valuing that higher than anything else in the photo. The frame, the subject, the composition of the photo, are all just some of the information that helps us read an image. In my opinion the most important piece of information is the subject because it is the forefront of the photograph, information-wise.
The line between artistic liberty and manipulation is an extremely fuzzy one when it pertains to portraits and how much a photographer should be in control. The photographer should have leeway in their ability to exercise artistic vision, but once the subject is portrayed in a way that they would neither approve, nor call accurate, it becomes manipulation. In my opinion, there are, and should be, moral standards when it comes to portraiture. The photographer should stray from portraying people in a way that they feel is inaccurate, and be transparent about who it will be shown to.
The purpose of my portraiture project was to show how I saw my subjects, and the sides of their personalities I felt were most prevalent. I also wanted to give them freedom within the boundary I set of certain, obvious, personality traits. I chose 4 subjects in total, my girlfriend Marlene, my friends Juli and Brandt, and my 1-year-old brother Jax. I have known Marlene for about 4 years, both Juli and Brandt I have known since August of last year. For some photos, I told my subjects exactly what I wanted, and let them execute that vision. For the remainder of the photos, I gave them liberty over how to act, and decided to focus on the frame instead of the subject themselves. The portraits gave me a much closer look at what the relationship should be in any future portraits I take, which would be one of pure documentation. Through the course of the project, I found that everyone reacted differently to being a subject. Marlene and Brandt, for the most part, really enjoyed being photographed. Whereas Juli found it awkward and claimed that she is not photogenic. It was also interesting to see how they reacted to my opinion of their personalities, feeling sometimes that I, or the photo I wanted, represented them in a way they agreed with and other times they didn’t agree with. Through mostly pure documentation, I found that I had the most fun, and the most success, when I let them act out and be themselves instead of trying to shine a light on parts of them I felt were important.