Richard Learoyd is a British photographer who does much of his work with a camera obscura. This camera uses the same principles as a pin-hole camera, but on a much larger scale: it takes up an entire room! The J. Paul Getty Museum in San Francisco recently hosted an exhibit of Learoyd's work, and while it ended November 27, you can still explore here. In his interview with Tristan Bravinder, Learoyd talks about his process, inspiration, and the "anti-Photoshop" imperfection he not only allows in his images, but is inherent to the technology he employs.
As a portrait photographer, I was especially intrigued by Learoyd's observations about the relationship between photographer and model:
Every artist is different! I love photographing people I know well, because the heart connection influences the way I see my subject. For example, I have been photographing my friend Marysue for nearly six years. I jokingly tell her that someday I will have a "Marysue exhibit," but it is only partly a joke! I find Marysue beautiful and interesting and I treasure her friendship, and that comes through in my images. Whether I am making a portrait of a friend or a client, I am looking for the beauty in my subject, beauty embodied in physical qualities and the light within.
The nature of portraiture is wonderfully complex and fascinating. It can conceal or reveal and sometimes both, and depends entirely on the relationship between photographer and model. Like other artists, photographers filter the visual world through their own experience. When the subject is a complete stranger, as many of Learoyd's are, the photographer can project his or her own meaning onto the model. The personal truth of the model may or may not surface in the images.
In 2015, Canon Australia explored the subjectivity of portraiture with their project "Decoy." A single subject, six different stories about that subject (none of which were true), and six different photographers. The results are astonishing.
"The photograph is shaped more by the person behind the camera than by what is in front of it." This reminds me of the endless diversity in our world, both of perspectives and subjects. Artists will never run out of material or perspectives with which to explore it.