When someone sits for me, it’s an encounter based on trust. They share their vulnerabilities and insecurities with me and trust me to look at them afresh – giving them space to truly show themselves in spite of it all.
In my personal branding photography practice now, I have started to ask everyone who sits for me to give me three aspects or elements that they would like their portrait to convey.
These become my guidelines – then, from there, we dive into the exchange.
In one of my favourite empowering photography commissions, I was working around the themes of collaboration and pairs. My task was to photograph two curators and writers who have a long history of collaborating over many years. It was super interesting to work with them, both individually and as a team.
One of the women actually used to be my gallerist, then she became a friend. The other woman is a twin – and it so happened that her sister was in town at the same time as her portrait photography booking with me and also needed a professional headshot for her new business in Ireland. This led to a very intense day of three individual and two duo sessions… we had a lot of fun!
However, the most fun thing about this commission for me was seeing a completely different face to each person. They all needed a totally different approach and way of being handled. With Hannah (who I have known the longest) I had to be very tough, in order to get her to focus on the task at hand! And her portrait is a jewel for me. She shines.
With Lena, she had a fixed photo pose that called for a very soft and slow approach from me, guiding her to alter her self-presentation and find alternative ways of showing herself. From there, the team sessions were easy! It was wonderful – and fun! – to share this new space and method of working with people who I had, at that point, only interacted with through my art practice or as a friend.
In truth, this new crossover made me a little nervous as I had to play a completely different role than the ones I was used to.
Plus, knowing that they expected not only a portrait but a work of art from me definitely sent the stakes higher! But, ultimately, I love how each one of the women shines in her own image.
And I love how a totally new presence and power appears once they appear alongside the other half of their partnership, whether work or family. What emerges from my lens makes me glad to facilitate personal branding photography – finding new and fun ways to help people communicate their inner selves to the outside world.