Photography, Fine Art, Wet Plate Collodion, Alternative photography

Who Wants to Be a Millionare… that is a portrait photographer

with 19 comments


OK. I’m not a millionaire, but I became to be a portrait photographer, although I always found portrait photography quite dull and very predictable. I mean you have really narrow boundaries in which you can move that portrait is flattering to a person being portraited and still somewhat satisfying for yourself. I’m best in photojournalism, but ever since I’m working on portraits for Mladina’s Stritpiz rubric, I became known as a portrait photographer. I received loads of work because of that work, like publication in La Repubblica, work for Corriera della Sera and at the moment I’m working on two international exhibitions, of course made out of exclusively portraits.

The picture above is a portrait of a cleaning lady from hospitable and it’s one from the series of fifteen portraits for the exhibition that will be open in Brussels and will travel across EU. The exhibition is about raising awareness of chemicals in our everyday and Ministry of Health is a producer of the show.

What I want to say is that portrait is a fundament of professional photography. Recently I realized that 90% of my work are portraits. I mean even when I work on a reportage is basically made out of portraits. I do corporate portraits, portraits from press conferences, reportage portraits, interview portraits, portraits of my family, etc… When I was at college our mentor said every portfolio has to have some portrait photography and although people would love your arty stuff on the end they will hire you to make a portrait in your arty manner.

Portrait photography sells and my key to success is that somehow I manage to comply with clients wishes and at the same time I deliver work that is satisfying for me as well. The authors satisfaction is embedded in the picture with capital letters and clients satisfaction is embedded with your valet.

I surfed around for some relevant articles about portrait photography. I want to confirm that portrait photography demands a psychological agileness to bent circumstances in your favor. Like today I used a trick from my iron repertoire. I had to do a corporate portrait of a person that very loudly protested and made a whole show about how she (it’s always she) hate to be photographed. I accepted the game and equally loudly I start explaining that I’m so relieved to hear that, because I make best portraits of people who hate being portraited. We start laughing and I continued that I make horrible pictures of people who love being photographed and that I can tell on first glance that I’ll make a great portrait of her, but she have to promise she will continue with her resentment to photography otherwise I’ll be in trouble on our next photo session.

Relevant links:
Digital photography school

PS: I just got an idea to ask you which portrait photographers or portrait photography projects do you like. I have a list that I’ll publish it as a comment. Cheers!


19 Responses

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  1. lol ! Cool, I don’t know when I will ever be asked to take portraits. JK


    17 April, 2008 at 22:57

  2. Most interesting part in doing portraits are images in your head that are impossible to implement practicly because of the flattering moment that you mentioned. But there is a thing that determine good portrait photographer from others. I do believe that is photographers psychologic ingenuity. Way of approach, talk, body language … Striptiz is very good example, Annie is perfect example, Newton did it great in nude portraits, but there is still thin line between good portrait and simple meaningless picture. I also believe that way of preparing portrait is a separate art (for example: I’ll make fun of you and you will like it; I’ll show the worst side of you and you will admire it without even notice it…), it is easy to make someone bigger and greater. Those are not an essence of portrait photography but in my opinion, are very important.
    Best regards,

    I miss JC

    Igor Motl

    17 April, 2008 at 23:53

  3. What I find lovely in portraiture is the very tacit details which somehow invite you in. To be honest I find it very difficult to speak about it because as I reflect into what I do it is very organic. I remember when I was photographing prisons in western Georgia I had a limited amount of time, guards around me, and a language barrier which made it quite awkward. The fact that I had no light was really a minor element. We did, however, found a rapport relatively fast and they became my protaganists. Our exchange was finally found on film. It takes me back each time I see it and I wonder about those children in prison.

    Igor…I am not far away and we share a time zone to boot! I am amazed that you find time to share your thoughts all the time.

    This was a soft comment wasn’t it? I promise to spice it up next time but when Borut writes three paragraphs about one picture I can’t help but sympathise with the idea that something as struck him retrospectively…and he is my brother after all.


    18 April, 2008 at 00:56

  4. Igor I agree completely with you concerning body language of person being portraited. There is a person standing where you ask him/her and although being very cooperating you need to find and record that “decisive moment”. You need to catch that split of a second when the hand, expression and body movement is perfect. This moment of perfectness can not be directed it must happen by itself. A photographer needs to figure out how will he/she channel the circumstances and allow it to happen.

    My favorite portrait photography projects are Richard Avedon’s The American West
    August Sander’s work
    and I love portraits of photojournalist Francesco Zizola. and many others.

    Borut Peterlin

    18 April, 2008 at 06:01

  5. Dear JC,
    yes this soft Abkhazian comments doesn’t suit you! You should stick to 15 years before doctor House attitude!

    Annie Leibovitz is great photographer, but what I hate in her work is that it is a true masterpiece of craft and aesthetic, but her portraits conceptually only reinforce the public image of a person being portraited. Only few portraits of her works “double sided” as her portrait of Schwarzenegger on a horse where we could read the image as power controlling more power or we could read it as horse on a horse.


    Borut Peterlin

    18 April, 2008 at 08:04

  6. Exactly! I also like two kinds of portraits. “Head and shoulders” with a matching neutral background and of course a distinctive expression on the person’s face. Or the kind you do, where you take what a person is all about or what he/she is known for, and emphasize it, twist it around, give it extra meaning, actually show a different angle that nevertheless tells a story of what that person is all about. But in my case, I like it a bit over the edge. 🙂 Like your portait of that guy in the midst of all the computer trash. Or Kačičnik in the coffin. Right now I’m setting myself out to do a portrait of my girlfriend – I wanted to do it for the introduction print of her exhibition, but it seems it’ll take me a bit longer and will have to be for some other occasion. I have to figure out how to securely hang her head-down from a tree branch. 🙂
    Otherwise, portrait photography is what I do the least, except when I’m woring on a feature. I never do it for my own pleasure, although I’ve been told I’m good at it. I don’t think so. 😀
    BTW: David Lachapelle’s biblical portraits and the recent exhibition? You can see it at Navigate to “exhibitions”. I still don’t know what to think of it. But that’s not real portraiture in the sense of telling a story about the person on the picture. When it comes to light, I like his Awakened photos. But that’s just one, there are other photographers with real and better portraits. This one just springs to my mind, because his photos really scream out. (even the colourblind can see those colours :))


    18 April, 2008 at 09:48

  7. Hm… House, MD!!! It is returning next week with new season! Sweet.


    18 April, 2008 at 10:57

  8. ” You should stick to 15 years before doctor House attitude! ” – I don’t even know what that means? I should be doing portraits for 15 years before I make a comment like that on my friend’s blog? Or I should be aware that the picture I am speaking of is more than just a cleaning woman with a trolley? Is House a TV show? Am I being compared to a TV show? I don’t even own a TV.

    People, people, people…relax…its not that important now is it. Light, reflection , the subtle this, the intricate that…Yawn. Maybe I should buy a TV.


    18 April, 2008 at 11:41

  9. What I meant is that you had a dr. House’s character already 14 years ago when we’ve met, which is far more interesting then this soft Abkhazian’s style of comments.

    Borut Peterlin

    18 April, 2008 at 13:12

  10. men se zdi, da bi lahko komot postal milijonar.. rabiš samo nago fotko carle bruni.. 🙂


    19 April, 2008 at 09:18

  11. Gaspard-Félix Tournachon Nadar


    19 April, 2008 at 13:46

  12. published tons of good portraits.

    Borut Peterlin

    20 April, 2008 at 00:02

  13. rineke dijkstra


    21 April, 2008 at 09:54



    23 April, 2008 at 22:06

  15. Are you from Ambrus? I recognized your accent!
    he, he…

    Borut Peterlin

    23 April, 2008 at 22:56

  16. Stiglitz,

    “Caps Lock” key can be found to the left of letter A on your keyboard. Learn to use it.


    23 April, 2008 at 23:06

  17. no, no… that’s the Ambrus’s accent I was talking about!

    PS: Ironically just today I received an email from Tokio (Days Japan) that they would like to exhibit my Strojan pictures and furthermore they’ll pay for that. Sure, that can’t be compared with good old Alfred!

    Borut Peterlin

    23 April, 2008 at 23:17

  18. Love your work Borut

    At least with portraiture everyone doesn’t think they are an expert.

    I’m a professional travel photographer with News Ltd (Rupert Murdoch) and everyone that takes a “happy snap” on their holidays thinks it’s worth publishing.


    1 June, 2008 at 01:07

  19. This is my first watch on this blog, I’ll comment after my next time…


    16 April, 2012 at 16:57

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