I recently rediscovered my photography, thanks in no small part to a dear friend who asked me to pick up my camera after many years and do a portrait shoot with her. At about the same time another friend asked me to take some pictures for her new website. It’s strange isn’t it, how synchronicity works? And what has developed out of that initial portrait session is just unbelievable! It has allowed me to create a synergy between my coaching and my photography, using one as a tool with the other. Edward Steichen said, “A portrait is not made in the camera, but on either side of it.” Connection and relationship is the key. A photographer can only capture the true beauty of the subject when there is authentic connection, I call it capturing the light of the soul. And it’s clear when it’s happened because the person and those who love him/her are visibly moved when looking through the images we’ve created together. Wonderful to witness is the sudden awareness that comes over a woman of her own incredible beauty, and her loving what she sees, rather than worrying or criticising herself.
My philosophy in photography has always been to capture what’s real, what’s present and who the subject is. And sometimes to capture and give the subject an inkling of who they are deep down and haven’t yet fully expressed. Robert Bresson said, “make visible what without you would never be seen”. I love that quote. And what I love about it, is that it underlines how unique each of us is. Most people would probably read into the quote the stylistic intention of each individual photographer. Obviously each photographer has their own style and way of working, so each photographer can capture the same subject in completely different ways.
And to obtain great results requires a collaborative creation, a co-creation – each creating from the energy of the other and from the energy of the connection. The initial shyness and worry of having a lens pointed at you dissolves and the camera seems to disappear. And in the moment that authentic connection happens, the camera becomes invisible, the magic begins and the resulting pictures can quite simply take your breath away. I always feel awed and privileged at how people I’ve photographed open up and allow me in to their universe. It’s possible to capture many different facets of a person’s character in just one hour, each real and authentic, a piece of the whole.
And it’s not just about the results, for me it’s just as much about the process, the photo shoot and the co-creation between photographer and subject. It’s not just the photographer who uses their own style, way of working and character to make visible what otherwise would not have been seen. The process being a co-creation, the subject impacts the photographer too, and the photographer can show a part of themselves that may otherwise not have been shown. It may be that their style is transformed or evolves, it may be that they discover something about themselves or their photography, or gain new awareness on some level. It’s like an intricate dance, with coloured silken threads that are woven together into a beautiful and unique tapestry, each and every time.
Each of us, in our relationships with those around us, has a unique impact and a unique opportunity to help others discover and see themselves. And in turn each person has a unique impact on us and can help us know ourselves more intimately. The substance of a portrait photograph lies as much in the process as the image, it lies in the rich flow of energy created and the self-discovery that can arise as a result of working intimately with another person. And that feels extraordinary! Where there is connection, there is a dynamic, flowing exchange between people that seems to amplify and open what is possible – it’s the birthplace of true creativity, is incredibly productive and, importantly, has a strong foundation in authenticity that provides the resilience and flexibility required to face any challenges as they arise.
Flow and weave, we dance a tapestry together. Curious to find out what we can create?
The Power of Human Connection, Saturday 15th November, Hong Kong