An Embodied Approach to Expressive Photographic Portraiture 2

The first thing we must do in order to make an authentic photo that expresses our natural qualities, is give ourselves permission, or license, to create and play.  Often the executive says to me,  “I am not creative.”  But as we continue to work together, we find that we are having fun with this process and come to realize what Andy Karr and Michael Wood say about creativity in there book, The Practice of Contemplative Photography – Seeing the world with Fresh Eyes.  “It naturally arises from your basic nature when you are open to it” (Karr & Wood, 2011, p. 1).  Obstacles to this are old beliefs, a strong ego, resistance, and a desire to control the final image in order to make the desired impression.  This perceived impression is what we see on corporate websites all over the world.  They are technically perfect, but often lack the fresh creative juice and direct expression of the man or woman behind the face.  Something is missing.

Some of the best corporate photographs I have seen are rare moments, when the executive is caught off-guard in a natural and authentic expression of who they are.  In other words, they were not controlling or efforting certain qualities in the image, but are accidentally photographed in a natural state of play or creative expression of those qualities.  Accidental is not repeatable, and doesn’t work for capturing more than one image.  We all know that in a photo session, we take more than one photograph.  So, in a professional session, our desire is to be intentional not accidental.  In order to be intentional about our photographic endeavors, which are to communicate that we are professional, confident, and trustworthy, we give ourselves permission to let go of our preconceived ideas of what looks good.  Then we are free to express those qualities in front of the camera so they can be captured in an image.  Art therapist and author Shaun McNiff, explains in his book, Trust the Process; An Artists Guide to Letting Go, that, “We let go of inhibitions, which breed rigidity, and we cultivate responsiveness to what is taking shape in the immediate situation.” (McNiff, 1998, p. 2).  Our immediate situation requires that we let go of or release this rigidity, so the intended expressions can come through and be captured by the camera.  We can respond to the situation creatively, instead of just trying to “relax” in front of a camera as the photographer is attempting to take a “good” picture.  That’s a good beginning, but we must go further.

As a professional photographer, is it my job to provide a comfortable environment so that my clients can feel free to relax and enter into creative play.  When we can play freely, it allows us to creatively explore many different qualities and variations on a theme.  It allows resistance to dissolve, as we discover something new about ourselves.  It allows us to lighten up and be fully present in the moment that we wish to communicate to others.  So, how do we get from a deer in the headlights to a relaxed state of creative play in 20 minutes?  The starting point for me, in this activity, is the body.

Working with my clients at this level, somatically (with the body), assists them in being able to release rigidity and achieve a level of relaxation that allows their natural, radiant, and authentic selves to shine through the layers of fear and protection so commonly captured in a photography session.  This may seem to be a tall order.  I promise, it’s not.

Thanks for participating in this dialogue.

Scotty Lewis

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