From the archives: September 15, 2016, My Problem with Portraits

Sara Leikin Sara Leikin

1000 Words

A photograph is worth (at least) a thousand words. Here are my thousand words to describe photographs, techniques, and the moments that make the image.

From the archives: September 15, 2016, My Problem with Portraits
From the archives: September 15, 2016, My Problem with Portraits

This week, I called my cousin to tell him that my wonderful father had passed away on Sunday morning, peacefully and as the sun was rising over the creek behind the house. Cousin Jeffrey recounted that my father was a wonderful storyteller and it led to a conversation about creativity and reinvention (a welcome diversion, thank you, Jeffrey.) I found myself proclaiming that photography to me was storytelling. I had evolved from a poet, to a novelist (who mostly wrote titles), to a writer of prose, to a photographer. I find it fascinating that artists can reinvent themselves in the same creative field by changing genres or by finding new mediums to channel their creativity. For me, every memorable photograph tells a story.

A story as much about the subject, as it is about the photographer.

I struggle with portraits, especially portraits of strangers, because I am acutely aware of this duality. The person should be the story, but the photographer has inserted herself as biographer. There is awesome responsibility to tell the authentic story. I rarely take portraits of strangers during street photography outings because I don’t want to corrupt their story.

Although it is still very much a work in progress, this doubt eases slightly when photographing family. Their story is my story. There is already an intimacy that allows for a better chance of capturing the authentic.

My father spent his last thirteen years in Florida, living on the banks of the Phillippi Creek. If a person ever had a happy place, this was his. A boater, a fisherman, he found his paradise and enjoyed every minute of it until the end. Even when he could no longer walk to the bank, or cast a line, he could see the water from his chair and tell stories of his time on the water.

This image of my dad tell some of his, and our, story. The story of how much he enjoyed fishing and being on the water. How much he loved his family. How he was living, and dying, on his own terms. How much I loved him, revered him. And how photography and storytelling keep our loved ones with us forever. 

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