Do Portrait Photographs Lie?

What do you think makes a good portrait? Generally, we say that a good portrait is the one that’s able to capture the persona of the subject in discussion. But, when we really think about it, how can we truly see a person based off of a single image. It’s just not possible. A single image can’t be the reflection of a person’s traits. Photographer Jamie Windsor explains why he thinks this is a deliberate manipulation of how an audience perceives people:

“I don’t think that one single image can communicate the complexities, nuances, contradictions, thoughts and feelings of a human being. I think at best this is a misunderstanding of what photography can do, and at worst a deliberate manipulation of how an audience perceives a person or people.”

Windsor refers to the famous image ‘Migrant Mother’ taken by photographer Dorothea Lange as a reference. Lange took the image in a pea pickers camp in Nipomo Valley, California. She took it as a part of her assignment to document impoverished rural workers. The images were to be used to gain voter support. When released, the image was an instant hit and even helped incite a relief movement. But, the problem was that the story that accompanied the image wasn’t true.

The takeaway here is that shooting a portrait is a complex task. And that’s because we human beings have complex natures. We tend to assume a lot and that’s one root of the problem. So, a single image is in no way capable of deciphering what lies within. The audience can interpret in their own way about what’s going on in the image.

“To me, a good portrait creates some kind of emotive connection and asks more questions than it answers. A good portrait triggers an empathy in the viewer.”

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