Sorbo - Magazine Cover Headshot - studio 35mm color
Education as it is applies to art may just be a double-edged sword.
Some 30 years ago, when I started in photography, my work was loose,
free, wild, unstructured, and at best, inconsistent. Looking back
on those images, I find that some showed promise, a few were strong,
and others were just horrible. But every roll of film brought with
it excitement and wonder. Would the images come out good? Would the
images come out at all??
by little, one learns by making mistakes. And back then--there
were unquestionably a lot more mistakes to be made, because
the equipment and the technology was a long way from today's
pretty-much-fail-safe sophistication. Today you have to work
hard to really mess up a shot...so success or failure must
reside somewhere other than achieving the proper exposure
and sharp focus...
I remember starting my formal photographic education. Some classes
on fine art; the study of light and composition in school. I studied
classical portraiture with (who else?) classical portraitists. It's
great at first--having those reigns pulled in--learning what the learned
ones deemed to be the right and the wrong way of photography. But
soon (when mistakenly taken as dogma) those rules and reigns become
a straight-jacket and a noose. They become confining, stifling, and
ultimately they inhibit creativity. The reality ultimately sets in
that an artform just can't be governed by rules, and that the ultimate
yardstick by which success or failure is measured resides within the
individual and his subject, or the individual and his viewers.
So now I find myself spending the greatest majority of my time on
my website (www.garybernstein.com). And the thrust, anchor and dedication
of the entire site is to provide freedom and creativity through education.
So do rules play a part? I think they do--if only as a foundation--a
support system to rely on when all else fails. In honesty, I find
myself going back to the rules at the start of a lot of sessions.
They tend to make my subjects more comfortable, and allow me to get
something good in the can early on in the session, before the creative
juices start flowing and all heck breaks loose creatively.
Rules in themselves are indeed rigid. For example, in classical portraiture,
only certain angles of the face are deemed appropriate for photography:
The full face (in which theoretically both ears appear the same size
to the camera), the provirtual (we're talking a true, clean provirtual),
and the three-quarter view (in which (again) theoretically, the far
eye comes precisely to the edge of the face. When the eye falls somewhere
midway between the edge of the face and the nose--as it does here
in this glamour headshot of actor (and great jump-shot shooter), Kevin
Sorbo (star of Hercules), the classic portraitist calls it a "bastard
view," and of course, that's a real no-no (I'm also anxious to see
if I got away with publishing that term!). Additionally, the classic
portraitist believes that a man's eyes must be centered in their sockets--as
opposed to Kevin's out-of-the- corner stare. So once again, a bit
of a departure from the classic image...
But hey, I hooked up three Photogenic Power lights--two at 45-degree
angles to the white paper background--one mounted in a Moonlight main
light (from Lighthouse Photo Products), then used a silver PhotoWorld
reflector just beneath Kevin's face (to fill in the shadows and add
some extra glint to the eyes), had him lean on a Denny posing table,
loaded some Kodak Kodachrome 25 in my Canon EOS affixed with a 100mm
lens, just metered for the highlights with my trusty Gossen (on incident,
please), made sure that I had about a half step more light on the
subject than on the background (to ensure good skin tones and saturation),
and somehow managed to get an international cover out of it. So how
important are the darn rules? I still think they're pretty important.