The Women of Staphorst: Guardians of Tradition by Eva Depoorter
My least favorite photographic term of all — not even a contest — is "cheese." How this obnoxious habit of grinning for the camera came into being is a mystery, but it is certainly the work of some satanic force. I remember being shocked at seeing the "X — STAND HERE" signs for both the subjects and the photographers that are painted on the sidewalks all over Disneyland. How ridiculous! Unfortunately, this type of point-and-grin composition is ingrained into all of us and even photographers of some note occasionally submit to the cheesy grin and bullet composition.
In contrast, look at this photograph by Eva Depoorter and how much we learn and can know about this woman precisely because she is not looking at us. The intensity of her gaze toward the sheet music is so much more revealing about her than anything we would learn if she were simply smiling back at us.
I think it is very hard to make a portrait that is not revealing if we photograph someone who is doing something. Work, motion, action, movement are all so revealing and in ways that can never be manifest in the stock still cheesy grin pose. It takes a bit more work on the part of the photographer to gain access to people in a way that they forget that they are being photographed, but it is worth it.
Not that a posed portrait can't be a successful one, but there is simply so much richness and texture communicated in a portrait that is candid.
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