Shooting a good portrait is for some photographers the ultimate challenge. Painting a portrait does not carry the same kind of onus because with painting the painter’s art competes with the truthfulness of the image. A photograph, on the other hand, when done well, raises no such demilitarized zone; the photographer’s failure or success is baldly there, in your face.
So what does a photographer attempt to capture with a portrait? Movements have come and gone. At some periods verisimilitude was paramount or the beauty of the image or subject; at other times the focus was on capturing a glimpse of a person’s uniqueness or the life he or she lives. With the portrait of a couple what is essential might be not only to capture and show a spark of life in each individual but also the dynamic of the relationship, its history.
We all have an idea of how we look to ourselves. The moment someone raises a camera we freeze into our contrived self. The task for the photographer is to catch the subject when self-consciousness falters and something “real” passes by. That is the moment I wait for. Not beautiful, real.
A photographer’s main goal should therefore be truth-telling, not storytelling. His work should be revelatory. The subject is changed by the experience – if the artist did his work.