After having been interviewed for the CFRC radio show Depth of Field by Rachael Hunter-Brown (the show's Facebook page is here and the full interview can be found here), I got to thinking about faces. I realized in the interview I spoke a lot about "seeing something there" when editing family shoots and portrait shoots. Well, what exactly is that something?
Often a look or an exchange between two people makes or breaks an image. And often those looks, whether it's a serious gaze leveled straight into the camera lens or a micro-interaction between family members, are what I'm looking for while I'm editing. As I've said before, the technical and compositional elements of a photograph come into play while editing. The image has to be exposed properly and visually appealing. However, if I feel a person's face is interesting or powerful, that will supersede most other elements. I'll always include strong expressions in my final edit because I believe those images will end up being the most important to the client. They are to me, that much I know.
The type of expression on a person's face can be contentious. As a photographer who works a lot with families, there can be the expectation that all images should be of a family smiling and staring into the camera. For me, those aren't the most interesting images and you can read about the way I photograph families here - we don't do more than a few minutes of group pictures, then we get on to the good stuff. This means that not all the images that I deliver to a client will be images of smiling faces. Because a smile does not always make for an interesting image. Sometimes it can, but not always. I certainly deliver grumpy faces, confused faces, bemused faces, all the faces - and that's because it's more interesting and it's more diverse. It's fun to remember those moments and it's what happened. Honesty is key for me.
I look for facial expressions and moments of emotion that are arresting - that literally make me stop in my tracks while editing. Above everything, I'm looking for real emotion, whether it's a comical face, an expression of love between family members, or a look that says something that's hard to define, but makes me feel something. My ultimate goal is to make others feel those same feelings when they look at the image. If they do, then I think I did my job. After all, visual mediums are all about sharing and communicating.
The work below is a collection of images that I feel highlight the importance of expression in photographs. Not all smiling, not all perfect, but photos that evoke emotion.
Places I've been, people I've seen.