Wednesday, January 21, 2009

School Portraits... well, sort of.

Well, it's back to school tonight... Rod Klukas' Large Format Photography class at Scottsdale Community College. This is my social life, this class. There are a great bunch of photographers who take the class semester after semester. Some have taken it almost twenty times. It's my fifth semester and every time I learn something new. Last semester it was the Color Zone System, which has allowed me to seriously investigate color as an artistic outlet. This is especially important to me since I am (red-green) color blind.

Rod has told us he would like to do some portraiture this semester. Initially I was not thrilled as this is not my forte. But after thinking about it I thought it would be different, and something NEW, just like color was last semester. Then I started thinking about the beautiful 11x14" contact portraits that my friend Roger Palmenberg showed. They are absolutely stunning. I would love to be able to make portraits of my wife and daughter of that quality. My portraiture experience has been limited to snapshots for the most part. Once in a while I would get lucky.

My friend, Joe Pollaro, Paterson, NJ, 1984

Back in the early 1980s, when I was starting out with the 4x5" camera, I experimented a little. On my first trip to Carmel, CA in 1984, I stopped in Berkeley to visit my dear friend Fr. John, who had been moved out west from our parish of St. Mary's in Pompton Lakes, NJ. I had gone out west to visit Pt. Lobos and the home of Edward Weston, whose photography I had been studying. I spent a few wonderful days with John, and on the last day I asked him if I could take his portrait with the 4x5. We went up on the roof of his apartment building. I kept thinking of Weston's portrait "The Head of Galvan, shooting".

The Head of Galvan, Shooting, Edward Weston, 1924

The portrait I came away with blew me away. I felt that I had taken a photograph of this wonderful man's soul. The scan here does not do it justice. I have enlarged it to 11x14" but now prefer it as a 4x5" contact print.

Fr. John, Berkeley, CA, 1984

A few more portraits here and there over the next half dozen years, some successful, some not, and I quietly abandoned portraiture for the work I have done since.

With the advent of digital cameras I began dabbling with portraiture, again mostly snapshots. And again, once in a while I would come away with something that I thought was pretty good. And each time that I am successful, it again comes down to the soul of the person.

Clownfest #33, Seaside Heights, NJ, 1999

Dennis Rowland, Scottsdale, AZ, 2008

I am looking forward to this semester's new photographic challenge for me. I hope to post some more successful portraits here soon.

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