A portrait might seem like simply a photograph of what a person looks like, but it is also an image that captures their energy, personality, surroundings, expression, and body language. In a single moment captured on film, the sensor of your pinkie-nail-sized phone camera, or anything in between, a portrait tells the essence of a character.
I don’t love the term “subject” when talking about the people we photograph. They aren’t specimens we’re performing science experiments on—they’re human beings that are choosing to share some of their life with you. A portrait does not belong to a photographer; it belongs to the person, place, or thing in front of the camera.
And I’m not talking about copyright, here. I’m talking about the intimacy and trust that comes with portraiture when your character opens themselves up to a photographer. A photographer may own the copyright, but not the intimacy a person is sharing with them.
While there are some traditional portraits in this story, I wanted to elevate portraits that make us rethink what a portrait can be, and that instill a little inspiration in us all. This final story is a celebration of our characters and their depictions, not just the photographers who saw the right moment, the right light, the right composition to help bring a portrait of their best friend, an animal, or a complete stranger to life. As photographers and photo editors, alike, we should always keep in mind the best interests of our characters as we tell their stories.
Kristen is an Associate Photo Editor with the Your Shot team. She interned at the White House Photo Office under the Obama Administration as well as Education Week. A proud RIT alumna, dessert enthusiast and Finger Lakes, NY native, Kristen is excited to guide your photographic journey!