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Thursday, March 14, 2013

Portrait Prostration

You know we do it.  We judge an artist from his ability to do portraits, people.  Nothing is more complex, or individualized,  or difficult to replicate than the human face. I loved Simple Gifts, but when I saw this, Leaving Home, I nearly died.  This is no ordinary artist. This is holy...

I'd known Mr. Jones for 9 months, but never had the guts to ask him why he no longer did portraits.  In two separate mailings, I learned some interesting things.

At first, it was this he had to say regarding his "Portrait Period", or how he made money the first 10 years following graduation from college:
"Portraits was next for about ten year. It just got started because I was asked to do some so the career grew out of that. I can't tell you how sick I got of that after all the years were going by."
So, he got sick of them, but there was more in the next correspondence:
"I gave up portraits because I felt empty all the time especially after years when by and I wasn't any further with the images in my head. They paid the rent but not much else. One day I did 'Church Window' out of no where and was so happy that I never when b ack to portraits except for a few for good people. I had enough money saved to quit them (maybe a couple thousand dollars) so I took a chance to move on. I would and will still do portraits if I could make them the way I wanted and not what the client wants.....almost with a huge smile and the best they can look. That's a hard thing to come up with for a couple hundred dollars. Perfection without a glitch. It's the same as brain surgery. I never did a 'generic' portrait, always right on. It took too much out of me. I saw the person (usually a child) for a half hour. The parents knew the person their whole life and I was expected to capture EVERYTHING in those short minutes. I never had to fix a portrait after I delivered it in ten years except for a vain woman who wanted to look 15 years younger. A lie. I had made her look ten years younger by myself already. I had the ability to flatter and edit a bit anyway. I can't do portraits today because I can't drive 25 miles anymore to get to their house to take pictures (fear I will run into a bridge) plus the fact I don't want to. I just have done a few portraits in the past two years for good people I did portraits of 30 years ago and were always so good to me. They send their best pictures (via email) and if I can work from them, I will do it. It's for good money too. Not too much but it is worth while. I used to be able to squat to take pictures, usually 72...two rolls) and I can hardly walk right now so I don't want to go through the hardships. Walking at Target's most days is enough."

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